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12-27-2010   #8 (permalink)
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Default Chapter 3: Runaway

Heku gazed blankly at Cerise's distraught face. Has she seen what happened in the courtroom?
"Cerise, I-"
"He came out?" Cerise asked, frightened. "But I thought we…"
"Count Sanguine." Heku said emptily.
The mere sound of his name sent an icy chill down Heku and Cerise's spine. Although the two had never heard of his name for over three years, the mere memory of him still vividly replayed in their minds.

December 12.
That day still replays in Heku's mind.
Three years ago, Hekutaa Veles Ranković seemed like a seemingly normal, love-sick 17-year old in the foggy, dreary town of Serdin. On that day, December 12th, Heku found an antique pocket watch, stained in blood. The same night, he began to experience grotesque, frightening nightmares that seemed all but a dream.
His nightmares became relentless, until a friend gave his father's journal of a war they never heard of. Heku read the journal, and found an island that he never knew about: Frostig. His nightmares finally became too much to bear, all of them pointing to one place: The mysterious island, Frostig. Hekutaa embarked on a journey to Frostig, accompanied by the one he secretly loved: Erina Fidèle. The moment the pair stepped foot on the misty, frozen-over island of Frostig, the two suddenly found themselves directly in the middle of a nation-wide war, a war between two kingdoms of Frostig: Lumisade, the Kingdom of Perennial Snow , and Vesisade, the Kingdom of Relentless Rain.
Along Heku's search to solve his mysterious nightmares, he befriends a blockade runner for the Vesisians in the town of Außenwelt, Kalech Stormont, who spent his life trying to piece together a mystery of the tragic death of his beloved fiancée , Laura Balk. However, Heku's strange nightmares seemed to bear an uncanny resemblance to Laura's nightmares.
Soon after, Heku and Erina suddenly experienced a lucid dream : an image of a ruined castle stretched before them. The two, along with their impromptu partner, travelled to the ruins of Count Sanguine's castle, only to uncover a terrible, curse. The memories of an accursed lord soon materialized before their eyes, targeting Heku and nearly killing him. Before the final blow, Count Sanguine disappeared, leaving three warriors to fight in his stead. Attempting to cause a diversion to let Erina and Heku escape, Kalech valiantly fought the three warriors, severely injuring himself as a result. While Erina and Heku rushed Kalech back to Außenwelt, his tremendous blood loss threw him into a coma.
The two, still perplexed by the battle -and shattered at the loss of their newfound friend-, they attempted to find the origin of Count Sanguine, leading them to a teardrop-shaped archipelago of the "Meandering Isle," where a strange shrine lay. Erina and Heku soon came across two ghostly figures, so-called "Gods" of Frostig: Vaughn, the "Bloodless Sheppard" and Atelise, the "Righteous Paragon." The two "gods" granted them otherworldly powers to control the world around them: Heku received the control of water, allowing him to gain immense amounts of knowledge, while Erina received the ability to control the air itself. With their newly-acquired strength, the two rushed back to the ruins of Count Sanguine's castle in hopes of eliminating the wretched monstrosity that nearly killed their friend. However, the two suddenly saw themselves in the midst of a skirmish between Lumisian bandits targeting a woman who contained a "bizarre talent," of which being the ability to spontaneously make objects burst into flames. Heku and Erina saved the woman, assuming that it may have been another "god" of Frostig. They, howbeit, rescued a wayfarer in search of a new home, a kind-hearted, gentile woman by the name of Cerise Adelaide Clemenceau.
Confident in their strength, the three once more entered the ruined castle of Count Sanguine, where the demonic spirit isolated Heku from the group via a labyrinth. With Heku alone, the two fought to the death: Heku fighting for the sole purpose of avenging his comatose friend, while Count Sanguine fought "for liberation."
Heku emerged victorious, yet at the cost of allowing his body to become an conduit for Count Sanguine's spirit to dwell within.
Nothing has ever been the same since that day.

"No…." Cerise gaped in disbelief. "But didn't we-"
"Kill him? I -well- you did."
"What does that mean?!"
"When I fought Count Sanguine for the last time, you thought that we killed him. However, even with our god-like powers, one cannot destroy a soul. Realizing that Count Sanguine's spirit could inhabit anyone and simply reset his plans, I allowed him to possess me."
"You… what?!"
"I know that there existed other ways to entrap him" Heku reasoned, tenderly grasping Cerise by her arms. "but that seemed like the most logical idea at the time."
"Don't you have any idea what might happen now?!" Cerise barked, pushing Heku away.
"No, but I know this: Whatever happened in that court room may have been those two spirits working together, in some sort of twisted symbiosis. I couldn't even control myself, but that immense amount of power seemed…."
"Then that explains why you locked yourself in that room in the prison" Cerise mumbled to herself. "And that explains why he wanted exile from Lumisade."
A bittersweet silence escaped from the both of them. Heku and Cerise looked at each other, conflicted with their emotions of joy for running away from the war, yet distressed by Heku's uncontrolled abilities.
"So now you have two crazy people inside your head." Cerise coldly remarked.
"Make that four." Heku muttered.
"Did you say…?" Cerise inquired, puzzled.
"Never mind that, Cerise." Heku abruptly spoke. "Let's depart to Roman: The City of Vines!"
Cerise forced out a smile, then accompanied Heku out of the prison. The two approached a guard in a small booth, where a gate blocked the prison's exit. In one fluid motion, the black-garbed guard nodded at Heku, then looked behind a large closet, picking out a box labeled: "Hekutaa V. Ranković." He handed it to Heku, nodding his head once more. Heku opened the small box, looking at his possessions that the Lumisian government took from him when he entered the prison: A sheathed short sword, a blood-red pendant, a black messenger cap, a black long coat, and a blank white stole.
Heku carefully put on his necklace and coat, his long, lightly tanned fingers swiftly fastening the coat's buttons through the gaps. He attached the short sword to a belt loop on his coat, placed the white stole between the lapels of his coat, and then wore his messenger cap.
Hekutaa still looked undernourished, thin, and lanky.
The armored guard in the booth then pulled on a lever, opening the iron-barred gates that blocked Heku and Cerise from exiting. The two opened the ornate, polished mahogany door of the prison. A cold air flowed through the opening of the door, turning into a light breeze the moment Heku fully opened the door.
A light layer of snow sat on the industrialized streets of Lumisade; Supply trucks filled with an assortment of covered food, ammunition, and factory supplied bustled through the streets, while the tall, looming factories expelled out pillars of black smoke. Not a single child nor a single man or woman walked the snowing streets of Lumisade, the Kingdom of Perennial Snow.
They were either at war or working at a factory.
A melancholy aura filled the air while Cerise and Heku stepped down from the snowed-ever, concrete steps of the Lumisian prison. They looked at the barren, lifeless streets stretched out before them while they cautiously walked down the candle-lit lanes to the train depot.
"It feels… nostalgic, walking freely down the streets." Heku sighed, a tinge of happiness escaping his normally indifferent tone. "How long has my sentence been served, Cerise?"
"A month." She said, looking at the grey, snowing sky above her.
The skies have turned a dismal, grey color from all of the smoke being blasted out by the innumerable furnaces of the Lumisade. However, pure, milky-white snow still seemed to fall from the toxic clouds above her.
She turned to Heku, who had also been entranced by the clouds above her.
"How can something so tainted, so poisoned, still release something so pure?" Cerise blankly asked.
Heku did not answer. He knew that her inquiry was directed towards him. He gazed at Cerise, then smiled.
"I do not know." He said.
After several moments of walking, the pair reached the train depot. They entered an empty train car, taking a seat in a small booth, covered in a ornate velvet. The two, covered in a layer of snow, sighed in relief while they sat relaxed in the empty train car.
A ticket collector, clad in a blue coat and a matching cap, entered the car, approaching the two with an air of alacrity.
"Oh!" Cerise exclaimed, slightly alarmed.
She remembered that she did not leave the prison without a train ticket, and proceeded to search her pockets within her dress. She looked to Heku, who had given the collector a pair of tickets.
"Thank you." The collector said, placing the tickets in his hat.
The collector promptly left to the car exit, signaling the conductor to close the car doors. The doors slowly closed while the train slowly began to accelerate. A loud whistle echoed through the train car.
"How did you have tickets in your pockets, Heku?" Cerise asked.
"I found them when I looked through my overcoat." Heku replied. "They must have put them in my pockets before they gave my coat back."
Cerise nodded in agreement, and then stared out a window from across the train car. The snow in front of the mirror made it impossible to see the outskirts of Lumisade from out the window.
A door opened from within the train car while two young men in green uniforms with satchels full of newspapers entered the train car.
One young man had a tall, lanky build, with short, fiery red hair, while the other young man had a short, stout build with long, black hair and a pair of yellow-framed glasses.
"Ugh, there's no one here again, Flins!" The tall, red-haired boy said.
"Hang on, Shiro." The short, black-haired boy replied in a Slavic accent, looking at Heku's shadow being cast on the car floor. "I think there's someone here."
Heku, in precaution, placed his right hand on his sheathed sword and looked out of the booth, spying the two bickering men. He stood up and make himself visible to the two boys. Cerise, curious, stood up along with Heku.
"What's this about?" Heku asked, trying to keep his short sword concealed.
"We're selling newspapers, sir." Flins said, smiling tenderly.
"Yup! For five galder each, sir!" Shiro continued.
"I see." Heku said, in slight disbelief.
"Would you like to purchase one, sir?" Asked Flins.
"Yes, please." Heku said, using his left hand to fish for a small, bronze coin.
Heku handed the coin to Flins, who exchanged it for a newspaper. He looked at the cover of the newspaper, reading a headline titled "Ranković: A God of Chaos."
Heku quickly became enticed by the story chronicling his destructive impact on the war of Frostig. He gazed in shock while he flipped though after page after page, image after image of all the destructive power he used in an attempt to stop the war. He returned to his seat, quickly reading through the article. Cerise, sat next to Heku, yet looked away from the newspaper.
War and blood always made Cerise squeamish. Even the mere sight of a mangled body would be just enough to make her scream in fear. How did she ever get mixed up in this war? She was a stowaway in a ship, planning to run away and start a new life.
She has received a new life, one full of love, but at the cost of being a playing piece for a war that otherworldly deities play.
Cerise, along with Heku and Erina, also contained an ability to manipulate a natural element of the world around her: Fire. However, unlike the two, she rejected her new powers, thinking that it would only being destruction.
It has.
"Are you feeling alright, Madame?" Flins asked, looking cautiously at Cerise's sullen expression.
"Me? Oh! N-not at all!" Cerise exclaimed, looking up.
"Where are you two headed?" Shiro asked, abruptly changing the subject. He glared suspiciously at Heku, his dark-brown eyes fixated on Heku's clothing: A black messenger cap, long, unkempt hair, stalky coat; He felt completely confident that the kind person they met hid a secret.
"Roman." Cerise and Heku said, looking at Shiro.
"Hey, we're from Roman, too!" Flins spoke, completely obvious to Shiro's concerned expression.
"Why are you going there?" Shiro quickly added.
"I-er, we, want to get away from the war and just live our lives." Cerise replied.
"Well, since we're in for a small trip, why not introduce ourselves, Shiro?" Flins happily said. "My name is Yari Flins, but you can just call me Flins."
"Shirotokama Iori, but call me Shiro." He grunted reluctantly.
"My name is Cerise Clemenceau." She said warmly.
"Cerise…?" Flins said quietly, gazing at Heku. "Then you must be…"
"Hekutaa Ranković." Heku said.
"No… you - you can't be!"
"I am."
"Th-then why go to Roman?!"
"To live out my days in peace."
"You lie!"
"Oh? Then why haven't I destroyed this train? Why haven't I killed you two yet?"