After his meal, tired and wounded, Aito avoided physical tasks. His wound had been cauterized, but any sudden movement could reopen it. So it was best to rest for now, instead of going walking around preparing traps and whatever nonsense he judged important to do.
Aito laid on his sunbed next to his cave entrance, something he had crafted using bamboo. He thought that if he had to stay on that island for three months, he might as well make it comfy. After all, comfort played a huge part in his survival by decreasing the risk of a mental breakdown.
There, under the shadow of a tree, Aito wondered, in between groans, how he could better prepare and realized that he didn't fully take some variables into account.
First, his armor. In the previous fight, the monkeys had changed their target from wrists and shoulders to literally anywhere else on his body. Meaning he should craft body armor. The sooner, the better.
Second, the inventory. Until now, he had taken it for a useful and all purposes infinite storage system. But he never experimented with the limits of it. Could it really store an infinite amount of items? Furthermore, the inventory could be a great support item during battles. With it, Aito could instantly summon any kind of item. And he was certain that monkeys would never be able to copy that. At least he hoped so.
Third, armor might not be enough to protect him. Dodges were efficient, but if he was ganged up upon like in the previous fight unless he was as nimble as a cat, the only thing waiting for him was a cauterized wound or, worse, death.
Aito struggled with this thought. How could he protect himself on top of wearing armor and stay mobile enough to attack? He wrestled with the problem while staring at a tree when…
"Hum… that could work."
During the meal, the man-thing had kept voicing out unknown noises to him. The monkey had been curious about the seemingly incessant stream of complex sounds. Did it mean anything? Why couldn't it stick to one sound like he did? It truly was a stupid moving meat thing. And the monkey hated stupid moving meat things.
However, he did pick up a sound the man-thing kept repeating while staring at him, "Jack". What was that? Was it supposed to be him? Judging by how it reacted, that must have been the case.
Jack… he liked how that sounded. It was simple, neat and, most of all resembled "Kyaak". Yes, he decided to tolerate that sound and started to refer to himself as Jack.
For once, Jack found that the man-thing wasn't as stupid as it appeared since it could make up such a cool sound.
Well… it could also make divine food! Maybe it was a BIT smart. But not as smart as Jack! Because soon, he will be free and he was certain the man-thing wouldn't see that coming.
The next day.
[Congratulations! Your wounds have been partially healed due to sleep difficulty!]
"Don't congratulate me for sleep difficulty!" Aito said, his dark-ringed eyes betraying his lack of sleep.
Last night had been—literally—one hell of a night. Pained by his wound, the Sandman couldn't visit him on his bamboo bed. He could barely catch three or four hours of sleep before he woke up grumpily. At least it was still dark, which meant the monkeys shouldn't attack him for now.
He slowly got out of bed, ate a piece of dried meat for breakfast, walked out of his cave, and went to see Jack.
Aito found the cage broken. It appeared that Jack had cut down the ropes tying the bamboo bars together and… well… fled.
Aito quickly drew his iron ax and surveyed his surroundings. Surprisingly, he quickly found the object of his worries sleeping on a tree branch.
He summoned a stone ax from his inventory and aimed, intending to shoot the monkey down. But… dropped the weapon at the last second. Somehow, it felt wrong. Jack could have attacked him in his sleep last night, but it didn't. He felt like he owed him at least a good night's sleep.
A thought bludgeoned, 'Maybe there is a way to coexist with that creature.'
It was probably the stupidest idea he ever had since coming to this island. Evol monkeys were his enemies. They had attacked him every day without rest. Clawing, biting, stabbing. He had had it all. But he did not hate them. They were the only living beings he had interacted with and, as naïve as it sounded, Aito felt grateful for that.
Another experiment of his came to mind. What if he could tame it? It wasn't the original purpose, but it got him curious. After all, Jack's aggressive behavior had lessened after the meal, and that gave him hope. Of course, he would still look out for an eventual attack from Jack.
Having decided, Aito settled a piece of meat on the broken cage before striding away, a clear goal in mind.
A few moments later, he had finally found what he was looking for, a tropical tree that bared his name. In the Polynesian language, "aito" had several meanings, including the name of this tree which translated to "the iron tree". There were rumors that even a chainsaw could break before cutting it down.
He delicately placed his hand on the brown bark, his eyes contemplating the tree of his childhood memories.
Aito remembered climbing the long branches of an iron tree, much like this one, to hide in its long stick-like leaves. At that time, he had been playing "hide and seek" with his family.
His little sister, Haley, was hiding beneath him, behind the tree. He had thrown leaves at her, who responded with a scream, giving out her location.
Shortly after, his father, Tevari, caught Haley, who pouted while mumbling, "it's unfair." Tevari had quickly found him afterward because of his mischievous laugh. Then came the delicious meal that his mother, Olivia, had prepared.
Aito smiled tenderly at the fond memory. It felt… so… warm. He had almost forgotten what it was like to have a…
"Family…" He muttered, still unaware of the tears running down his cheeks. "Why… did I have to ruin everything?"
If only he had restrained himself. If only he had quit alcohol sooner. If only he had learned to control his rage sooner. If only...
His insides boiled up with fury. Tears poured out, clogging his vision. Aito's body trembled as he drew his ax, eager to unleash the raging storm building up inside it.
—Gift: Mindless Fury—
Pieces of barks flew by his face as he mindlessly butchered the tree. The ax blade viciously bit into the wood, each consecutive strike decimating the iron tree's remaining life span.
However, to Aito, what he was bringing down wasn't the tree.
It was the suffering.
And, the regret.
The earth shattered under the iron tree's weight. Pebbles flew away, closely followed by clouds of dust.
A storm still raged inside Aito's body, but with nothing else to bring down, it brought him to his knees. He clawed the earth, searching within it the salvation he so desperately needed but was denied.
"I'm sorry, mom, Haley." He wailed, teardrops wetting the ground. "I'm so sorry… dad."
Jack jolted awake by the sound of what appeared like a cornered beast. His five senses rapidly sharpened, ready for any potential danger.
What was happening?
He jumped down, got on two feet, and turned his gaze towards the sound's location. His nostrils, however, wondered in another direction.
Jack walked to the cage, looked around to see if that wasn't a trap, snatched the meat, and eagerly bit into it.
What was that? It wasn't bad but tasted different. A bit more chewy, salty, and… dry? It wasn't that bad that he would spit it out, but he'd rather eat divine food. Maybe the man-thing could give him more of it?
Jack shook his head. No, today he would kill it. Yes, because… because… because he hated it. That's it.
The monkey headed towards the noise, thinking that he might find his personal che… target there. On the way, he armed himself with a stone to use it against the man-thing.
He nimbly jumped from tree to tree and quickly reached the man-thing's location, but he didn't find what he had expected.
It was faced against the ground, crying and completely defenseless. Jack's eyes sparkled at the free kill. He sneaked his way to his target and soundlessly prepared to strike. But…
"I'm sorry… I'm so sorry."
Somehow, those sounds made him stop. Something tugged at his heartstrings. What… was the meaning of those sounds? What power was that!
Jack couldn't comprehend the situation, but he did know one thing, the man-thing was a pitiful moving piece of meat, and killing as it was now wouldn't ease his hatred.
It felt too easy. He needed a glorious victory! His pride didn't allow him to step down to the level of backstabbing. Jack could kill it whenever he wanted, anyway. He was that strong!
However, he decided to leave it alone for now and maybe eat one or two more divine food from the man-thing before killing it.