"Vith! Vith!" Shiro called out. Vith did not reply. Shiro and Aremi gazed in petrified fear. Vith dashed down the hallway, towards the sound of clashing blades and the agonizing screams of soldiers.
Aremi coldly closed the door. She looked down in remorse, and sighed. She turned around to Lin's mutilated body and lowered her head. Shiro joined her, and covered Lin with a sheet. A blank expression covered his face. He looked emptily out the window, wondering if the rest of Lumisade had fallen under a Vesisian onslaught, like how Roman fell under a skirmish between the warring states. He imagined a flood of refugees fleeing from a city engulfed in fire and drenched to the soil with Lumisian blood.
It looked peaceful outside.
Aremi looked to Flins, who watched helplessly from his bed. Aremi, at a loss of words, blurted out, "You're awake."
"I am. But it feels like I'm in some sort of dream." Flins replied. "Now what do we do? Vith just ran to his death, Lin is completely torn to shreds, and Lumisade as we know it is ready to fall. Would contacting our ruler make any difference?"
"What are you talking about?"
"See for yourselves; one of our strongest fighters has been ripped to a bloody pulp. Besides , escaping will be nearly impossible with me, and my injured leg will only get in the way." Flins remarked. He lay down in bed. "You two go on without me."
"No way!" Shiro barked. "If we survived the attack on Roman, if we managed to beat those abominations on the Wayfarer's Isle, then escaping from here should be an easy task, Yari!"
"Think about it!" Flins roared, sitting upright in bed. "Who do you think saved us in those two battles? Heku! Look at me; when Heku was knocked unconscious, we tried to fight for ourselves, and look what happened! I nearly died!"
"So what?! Do you think you're some powerless kid?! Get a hold of yourself, Flins!" Aremi yelled.
"Get your head together, Yari! Lumisade's going up in smoke, and this is not the time to act complacent!" Shiro growled, lifting Flins by the collar. "I'm not leaving you behind. Do you understand me?"
Flins reluctantly nodded.
Flins managed to lean on the edge of the bed, and tried to stand. His injured leg did not have enough time to recover and standing up brought a sharp pain to his body. He grunted in agony and forced himself to walk. His physical exhaustion from the fight hours before left his entire body weary. His loss in blood made him feel light-headed, and his body swung left and right to simply stand. He breathed heavily and his vision became blurred.
Shiro handed him a sheathed sword, which Flins immediately took and used as a cane to lean on. He also handed Flins a small set of clothes, to replace his medical gown. Flins quickly swapped his gown for a white collared shirt and pants. He slipped on a pair of boots that have been placed beside his bed.
"Are you ready, Flins?" Aremi asked.
"As I'll ever be." Flins replied, shrugging.
The three approached the closed door. Shiro stopped the two before they opened it, warning them, "Remember, whatever lies beyond the door is out to kill us. Whatever we do, we have to get out alive."
Aremi and Flins coldly agreed. Shiro opened the door and the three bolted out the medical ward.
Outside, it seems that their surroundings showed no sign of change, except a trail of blood that Lin created when Vith and Aremi dragged her in. The three heard the sound of blades clashing and the sudden cry of a man.
"Let's get out of here!" Flins yelled.
The three jolted into the hallway and down a flight of stairs into the base floor. Flins had difficulty keeping up, for his injured leg impeded his swift movement. Nevertheless, he ignored the sharp pains from his leg and continued running.
Shiro opened the door to the base floor. Pools of blood and the bodies of dead Lumisians littered the area. The white marble floor had been stained with the crimson blood and the calm, wintry fragrance that once filled the air had been replaced with the stench of fire. The once peaceful fortress had suddenly turned into a frenzied battle for survival against a destructive enemy.
"This - This isn't happening!" Shiro gasped.
"It is." Flins replied.
"Come on! Let's get out of here!" Aremi said.
The three rushed down the hallway, and their exit had appeared. One more hallway and they could exit the fortress. The three lined behind a blood-stained door, but the loud sound of men and women screaming in pain stopped them from entering. They paused for a minute and drew their weapons.
"Can you fight, Flins?" Aremi asked, noticing that he had to lean on the sheath to stand.
"I'll die fighting."
Shiro glanced at his teammates. They nodded, ready to attack whatever lie before them. He opened the door and rushed through.
Nothing in sight.
Suddenly, a body came flying through the room. It slammed against a wall, and then slithered down while leaving a trail of blood. It tried to stand up, but collapsed on its own weight.
A woman in red entered from the hallway the man came flying through, laughing maniacally. She clenched her fist, and the man had been engulfed in a hand of fire.
"Aren't you going to fight back, teacher?" She said. "Aren't you going to fight, Sir Vith?"
The man did not respond. She flung the man against the wall again, this time with greater force. The man slammed against the wall once more, and more blood spurted from the man. The man fell to the floor, but did not rise.
The woman cackled in delight, while her eyes glanced the room around her. From the corner of her eyes, she spied Shiro and the others. They looked back, completely paralyzed in fear while she devilishly smiled.
"You… You… YOU'LL DIE!" Aremi screamed, charging at the woman in a blind fury. The woman stood and did nothing to protect herself. She ran until her spear was nearly a foot away from the woman's body.
Aremi suddenly recognized the woman's face.
Cerise repulsed Aremi several feet with the flick of her wrist. Aremi crashed to the ground, while Cerise ran away to the hallway where she entered from, taunting the three while she escaped.
Aremi sprang from the ground, yelling, "That was Cerise! Cerise just attacked us!"
"Wait, if Cerise attacked us," Flins remarked, "then… dear God."
"We have to fight Heku." Shiro answered.
"If Cerise bashed all the blood out of Vith, then there's no telling what Heku will do."
"We're fighting him."
"What?! But there's-"
"We're dying anyway, Flins. We might as well defend Lumisade now, rather than run like cowards."
"Wrong choice, friend." Heku voice rang through the room. Flins and the others looked wildly for Heku, who suddenly appeared in front of them. Heku wore nothing more than a Vesisian uniform: A black turtleneck , along with black pants, and a black and white kilt. He held a single sword in his hands, instead of his regular dual blades. Even his messenger cap did not appear on his head.
"You should have ran." He continued.
"You sneaky little bastard!" Shiro roared. "I thought you were one of us!"
"I am one of you, I just want to help you by eradicating the likes of you."
"But… why?" Flins asked.
"If I don't, then I have to live forever with this curse!" Heku yelled, extending his left arm. It suddenly transfigured into a gigantic fist of ice. "I have to live this… this abomination!"
"Then why kill us?!"
"To life my curse, there must be peace in Frostig. If you do not recall, I slaughtered your leader in cold blood months ago. I have simply returned to slaughter the rest of your sheep."
"There has to be another way!"
"There is no other way!" Heku yelled. "You should have given up a long time ago. You should have just ran away with your tail behind your legs when you had the chance at the Meanderer's Isle." Heku began to encircle the three, sheathing his blade. "But then again, I have to kill each and every one of you to lift it. If there exists resistance towards Vesisade before I absolve my curse, then I cannot be free. Either way, you would all have died. The only difference is that I'll enjoy tearing your body limb from limb even more."
"What do we have to do with any of this?!"
"You…? YOU?! You stole my life! You stole my love! You stole her! You stole everything I had! Give me a good reason not to kill you right now!"
"I… I don't know." Flins grumbled.
"Well then, let have a fight!" Heku suggested. He walked to the end of the hallway, while Aremi and Shiro armed their weapons. Heku drew his sword and held his left hand to his chest. An orb of blue light radiated from his hand.
"Now then, are we ready?" Heku inquired in a sadistic tone.
They did answer. They all charged at Heku in unison and struck at him. His body vanished, leaving only specks of diamond dust. He quickly reappeared behind them and clenched his left hand, making three armored versions of himself out of ice, to attack the them. He did not injure them, only separated them. Heku lifted his hand and pointed at the three, and engulfed them in a snowstorm, then used a fist of ice to savagely throw them against a wall, like what Cerise did to Vith.
He did not kill them, yet he flung them with enough force to make them fall unconscious.
Flins collapsed to the floor, desperately trying to stay awake. His eyelids became too heavy to keep up. The last thing he saw was Heku sheathing his sword and walking away, saying, "Another day."
(It took a long time to write this. Granted, it's not my average length for my chapters, but I experimented with description. Future chapters will have more description and a lot of backstory)
18: A Faltered Step
Hours passed since Heku left the military institute of Lumisade in shambles. Flins, Shiro, and Aremi still lay on the floor, unconscious from their skirmish with Heku. A cool breeze lightly grazed Flins' wounds. It stung slightly, but the pain forced him to awaken.
His vision appeared blurry, but he already knew that the fortress surrounding him had been bathed in the blood of its soldiers. He forced his weary body to stand, yet his fresh wounds anchored him to the ground. Nevertheless, he arose.
Flins could not keep his right eye open, for his eyelid drooped half-way from a cut near his eye. His left arm had been broken, yet his left fingers twitched wildly. His breathing became raspy and rapid. He could not keep his balance, and teetered left and right. He felt lightheaded from the immense loss of blood.
Flins glanced at the mangled bodies of Shiro and Aremi, who also endured the same injuries. They did not awaken, but the both of them lay silent and motionless on the icy floor. Flins weakly nudged them, but he could not awaken them.
"Shi…ro." He called out, exhausted. "...A...remi…"
They did not respond.
Flins called out to them once more.
Flins knelt to the floor, crying in a mixture of agony and uncontrollable rage. He forced himself to stand. Using his short sword like a cane, he struggled to walk, despite his broken bones and withered, frozen muscles. His hands trembled with every step, while his body slowly froze while it wavered in the Lumisian winds. He approached the door and opened it with his blood-drenched, shattered hands. He barely had enough energy to even grasp the brass handles.
When he opened the door, Heku stood before him, almost like a grim reaper waiting to drag another soul to the depths of Hell. Heku gave an icy stare to Flins.
"Why… are you… still here?" Flins said. "Why… did you have to kill them?!"
Heku replied, "They still live."
"Why? Why not just… kill us?"
"Even insects deserve the chance to defend their endeavors."
Heku walked away from Flins.
"Return home." Heku said. "We merely exist to follow an unchanging stream; I intend to play my part, even if it means completing a task that involves a pointless waste of life." Return home? Flins thought.
It has been more than a month since Flins and Shiro ever heard from their family. To hear the birds around Roman singing a tranquil melody, to enjoy the laughter of children, to be normal, all of it became a fervent dream of a madman ever since Flins voluntarily enlisted on that day. Flins desperately wished to escape from the turmoil and chaos of Lumisade and Vesisade, but he already began to play his part.
Flins collapsed to the floor. He lost too much blood. Too weak to stand, and too exhausted to cry for assistance, he lay there helplessly. His hands trembled while their color began to turn into a pale white tinge. His veins could not be seen anymore, and soon he could not move his hands entirely. His eyelids grew heavy, and his entire body fell numb.
Flins' eyes closed.
Heku boarded a train bound for Außenwelt. He had his face buried in his hands. In a berserk rage, he and Cerise killed countless lives. He even watched his own friends die while he mocked their attempts to defend their country. His anguish became too much to bear, even if meant that he would live eternally as an abomination forced to indiscriminately kill those who wish for unity.
He could not weep. His emotions already escaped him. The emotions that still existed consisted of extreme anger, and the guilt that followed.
Heku did not always act this way. Three years prior, he lived in the town of Da Capo, where his life had been all but extraordinary. He believed in diplomatically solving problems instead of using a sword as an instrument of negotiation. He always spoke a mantra of altruism, rather than mock a dying body and grinding his foot against their broken bones while he tormented them with his forked tongue. Everything changed on that day, December 12th. His friends, his values, even his perception of others changed on that day. On that day, the once kind and serene boy transformed into a heartless machine constructed only to kill. Part of him died that day, and his lack of emotions and his self-loathing obliterated the rest him three years later.
How many people has he killed in cold blood since this day? He could not begin to count how many. He fought through a phalanx of Lumisians, yet his only injury originated from his own questioning of his place in restoring peace in Frostig and the thought of mutilating innocent lives, like a twisted game that he did not wish to partake in. The only he ever suffered emanated from his heart-wrenching pain of killing others like mere ants and the constant questioning of the righteousness of his actions. Every piece of torn flesh before him, every drop of blood smeared on his clothing kept him on the verge of madness. Despite his disdain for violence, he forced himself to heartlessly destroy the Lumisians. His acts of "courage" in the face of "danger" caused him to achieve acclaim to friend and foe alike, yet his experiences began to bore into his mind like a parasite ready to take over a helpless animal.
Heku yearned to kill himself and suffer his sins in the depths of the Inferno after every reprieve he earned. For the last several days before his deranged massacre of the Lumisians, he tried to kill himself by slashing relentlessly at his own wrists, impaling himself with his own icicles, and even tearing out his own flesh with his bare hands. Ironically, his feverish attempts to end his life all failed. What Vaughn told him became true: No matter how hard Heku tried, he would live forever immortal until he fully unifies the broken countries of Frostig.
Heku sat like an abandoned carapace; He felt completely hollow on the inside, yet there existed a skin -remnants of armor, on the outside.
"What have I done?" He asked himself in a mournful tone, his face still buried in his hands.
"Your task." Cerise answered.
She entered the empty train car and sat down next to Heku. She, too became emotionless after she received her otherworldly powers. However, when she gained her abilities, the Lumisians seized her before she knew how to conjure her strength and performed inhuman tests on her. It left her mentally scarred, but it awakened a bloodthirsty demand for revenge.
One of the scientists who proctored the tests went by the name of Vith. He managed to understand Cerise's magical powers and use it to aid the Lumisians. Sir Vith, after the months of brutal testing, moved her to the town of Außenwelt to be executed, yet she managed to break free from her imprisonment. She encountered Heku during her plight, who valiantly and altruistically defended her from the Lumisians. From that day, three years ago, she swore to repay her debt by bighting on the side of the Vesisians.
Her days of testing never escaped her mind. The never-ending screams of agony, the countless needles extracting gallon of blood, and the innumerable scientists "experimenting" with her powers by forcing her to immolate hundreds of prisoners. All of them remained like scars embedded into her mind.
Unlike Heku, who had been so loathing of violence, Cerise swore revenge on those who treated her like an expendable test subject, and even those who bolstered her strength. The Lumisians kept her isolated, never directly spoke to her, treated her like an aberration. Her once serene and curious approach to the world soon transformed into a façade, veiling her wrath to those who mistreated her.
Heku and Cerise sat slumped in their chairs. Heku finally took his hands off his face. Without looking at Cerise, he asked, "Do you think we're still human after everything we've been through?"
"Not anymore." Cerise replied with the same despairing tone.
"Then what are we?"
"Something that should not exist."
The two remained silent. Out from the depths of their self-loathing, they dreamed for a life without their powers. They dreamed for a life of blissful innocence and not a half-life of a bloodthirsty knight. Their hope for a normal reality became a feverish vision to them. The blood of thousands stood in their way before they could even experience their dream for a fraction of a second.
Hours passed until the pair reached Außenwelt. When the train came to a halt, the doors flung open, prompting Heku and Cerise to leave. When the exited the train car, they noticed Kalech and Erina waiting for the two in front of their car.
"Did you play your part?" Kalech asked immediately.
"If you call indiscriminate death a 'part,' then, yes." Heku responded. "Three individuals have survived."
"Why that many?"
"Just to make sure Lumisade gets a fair warning."
Kalech nodded his head in slight agreement. He spoke, "Good work. We're headed to Einfall. Further instruction awaits you there."
(Does anyone else hear the "NeiR" soundtrack whenever they read my stories? Strangely, with the right song, it makes everything more... surreal.)
Chapter 20: Burdened
Heku and the others began to journey outside of the village of Außenwelt to the nearby fort of Einfall. They ventured into the forests neighboring Außenwelt to reach the fort. Heku, Cerise, and the others once ventured into the forest three years ago in search for a madman's mansion hidden within the dense, mist-covered trees.
Almost an hour in their journey, the four stumbled upon the ruins of the mansion. It had since been abandoned after Heku and the others killed its owner, Count Larme. The calm wind seemed to gesture Heku into the open, ivy-ridden mansion.
The four stopped their walk when they entered the clearing surrounding it. All of them took a brief moment to think of their past endeavors. A sense of nostalgia and a feeling that something -a sign or even an unseen clue, might hide within the ruined doors of Count Larme's mansion.
"I'm going inside." Heku said suddenly. "I won't be long."
"Be back soon; we still have a lot to journey through if we want to reach Einfall before nightfall." Kalech replied.
Heku walked into the ruins of the mansion. Rays of light entered through the broken stained-glass windows on the walls in front of him, yet it seemed to give the mansion an eerie atmosphere. Heku drew his sword in advance; the place still frightened him, even if it had been devoid of any human life for the past three years.
A door under a gigantic stained-glass window loomed in front of Heku. It had been opened, revealing a courtyard. A shine of metal caused by the sunlight glimmered in Heku's eyes. He ran towards it, and stumbled upon a poignant spectacle from three years past: Heku stumbled upon the grave of Count Larme. The once silver sword that Count Larme wielded against Heku and Erina had been transfigured into a mere shell of its once former glory. Rust now covered the blade due to the constant torment from the rain and snow that entered from the roofless courtyard.
Heku knelt in respect. Even though he loathed Count Larme and how he threw him into an inescapable odyssey, he still believed that his death should not have occurred. Even to this day, Heku thought that Count Larme had done nothing wrong. Heku still remembered the events that led to his unfortunate death. Three years ago, Count Larme tried to create a Lumisian attack against the Vesisade-controlled Außenwelt. However, Heku and Erina, with the assistance of the Vesisian military, suppressed the revolt. In the end, Heku and Erina confronted Count Larme. Despite Heku's pleas for peace, Count Larme drew a sword against them. Count Larme died by Erina's sword and Heku's words.
Heku glanced to his right. He noticed that Erina appeared beside him, kneeling.
"Strange. I imagined that you would spit on his grave." Heku commented.
"'Even the loathed deserve a grave.'" Erina replied, quoting Heku's words from three years past. She stood up. She look down at Heku, and asked, "You used to be so peaceful, so serene, so gentile. What happened to you that made you lose that?"
"I became a god." He said. "What made you become so questioning?"
"I was forced to kill to find an exit out of this Hell."
Heku stood up. He gazed at the sky above him, laughing wryly. His eyes seemed emotionless while he looked up, almost like he addressed Vaughn when he asked, "Why keep us your prisoner- your little plaything? Is a god nothing more than a killing machine?"
Heku waited for an answer. For several moments Heku waited, but no one, not even Erina, answered him.
"Kalech's waiting." Erina finally stated, walking out of the courtyard.
She turned around.
"Draw your sword."
"What?" She exclaimed. Erina noticed that Heku already brandished his blade. A sullen look appeared on his face, almost like he regretting this moment.
"The last time we met-"
"I've forgotten about that!"
"No, it's not that." Heku tried to explain. "I just need to know something."
"Then just talk like a civilized human!"
"Have you ever noticed that our resolve to complete a task becomes so immensely strong when we fight?"
They fell silent for several moments. Heku felt he was on the verge of tears, but could not cry, or even experience the feeling of sadness. Erina simply stood, frozen in a mix of confusion and the understanding that all of her actions had been dictated by her primitive instinct of survival. She tried to answer Heku's biting question, yet she could not speak. No answer, no excuse could suffice. For one moment, she felt all of Heku's endured pain.
"Let's have one fair duel without magic, just like old times. That way, I know if my resolve, no, obsession with returning to normal is strong enough to support my way out of this twisted maze."
Erina tried to talk her way out of fighting, but all of her attempts to stop Heku all flew up in vain. All of her excuses met the same answer: "What will fleeing from this problem result in? You and I know well that our resolves equal to nothing. The only to personify our endeavors results in strength.
She reluctantly unsheathed her sword. Heku walked to one edge of the overgrown, green courtyard. He emptily gazed back at Erina.
He charged at Erina. He threw a myriad of slashes at her, yet she deflected all of them swiftly. His fighting style, to Erina, seemed to degrade. His attacks did not seem artful; they appeared wild, uncontrollable, unpredictable. With every strike, Erina noticed that Heku put the entire strength of his body in conjunction with the sword's movement. Under normal circumstances, Heku would be so mindful of his form, using a specific stance with precise and carefully calculated timing. Now, his attacks appeared brutal and unrelenting, even if he was dueling his closest friend.
"Enough!" Erina roared, slashing Heku in the left arm before he had the chance to attack.
Heku jumped back and ruthlessly charged at her again, like a crazed animal. His attacks became more violent, but less ornate. His movements had been reduced from a graceful flurry of attacks into a mindless, random barrage of ineffectual slashes. Is this the strength of his goals? Erina thought. By that time, she noticed that Heku had gone insane with his lust for normalcy. Every pint of spilt blood, every shriek of an innocent man dying nibbled at Heku's sanity. By then, he had no sanity. It was as he feared: The gods finally managed to twist, mutilate, and warp Heku's thoughts to the point that he became their slave that would not fight back.
Erina stopped parrying Heku's attacks. Heku immediately followed. The two dropped their swords in exhaustion.
Erina threw a punch at Heku's chest, causing him to crash down to the ground. He did not bother to get up, yet Erina forcibly pulled him from the ground.
"Look at yourself! You've turned into a savage monster with your 'goal!' What you're trying to chase after is completely unattainable, and the gods toy with you so that you lose their sanity and become their puppet!" She roared. "Can't you see that already?! You'll end up just like Count Larme; he went insane after the Vesisians did God-knows-what on him! When we fought him, he BEGGED for his life, and we killed him! Do you know why? Because he was the one responsible for our involvement! Because he was the one sending men to their deaths in a vain attempt to absolve his powers! Because-"
"Because!... Because…" Heku tried to argue with her, but everything she said was true.
Erina threw him to the floor.
"Kalech's waiting." Erina said, walking out of the courtyard.
"Erina." Heku said. He stood tall, yet he felt completely weak. He slowly walked to his sword and sheathed it, asking emptily, "What keeps you able to retain your sanity after all we - you've been though?"
"Not questioning the unstoppable." She remarked coldly. "Now hurry up."
Heku reluctantly left with Erina. The two felt completely hollow; their remembering of their past actions filled their minds with innumerable regrets, along with the feeling of hate they possessed why they recalled their once optimistic outlook on life.
The two exited the ruined mansion. They looked sullen, exhausted, devoid of life. Nevertheless, they said that they could continue to Einfall.
They travelled along the green, snow-touched forests for an hour more. By then, the waning, bright moon loomed high in the air. The sounds of the woodland creatures dwindled, only replaced by the sounds of the group trudging through the snow. The darkness and solitude reminded Heku of the entire month in Lumisian captivity. No windows, no exit, no life. Just the sibilant sound of his own breath and the feeling of a biting cold. He smiled slightly in peace. For once he felt at peace, despite all of his inner turmoil ready to rip apart his mind.
This tranquility had been an out-of-reach dream for Heku for so many years. For one fleeting moment, he acquired it. He felt human again, if for a brief moment. The serene landscape calm gave Heku a miniscule resolve to end the war. Once the war ended and Frostig united into one nation, Heku would soon find himself experiencing the restitution he relentlessly fought for. He would enjoy a normal life, completely devoid of any otherworldly powers.
The four suddenly came across a small aura of lights. Einfall lay ahead of the lights. Vesisians constantly patrolled the surrounding area; Außenwelt and the forest acted like a no-man's land, where small skirmishes took place almost weekly.
A patrolman spotted Kalech. He called out to other soldiers, and a small squad of four closed in on them. Once they could easily identify Kalech and the others, the soldiers lowered their rifles.
"Names?" The soldier asked. He sounded young -around the early twenties. His voice also sounded somewhat startled, but he tried to mask it with a loud voice.
"Kalech Stormont. You should know the other three."
"I see." The young patrolman replied. "Then, come in. The General has a lot to tell you."
We're nearing the finale, folks. I hate to say this, but get ready to see the end of "Between Innocence and Resolve" within the coming months. Don't fret; I've got plenty more projects (which are a whole lot less darker)
Chapter 21: Einfall
The four entered the fortress, along with the guards. The incandescent light bulbs inside the fortress, along with its cramped, brick hallways made Einfall more military-wrought and all the more disdainful to Heku. Will the constant reminder of war ever end? To Hekutaa, the constant surmise of the nation-wide war would never wane until he unwillingly accepted his task.
The guards led the four into a situation room, where uniformed senior military officers eagerly awaited for the group.
Kalech gave a look of confusion. "We're having a briefing? At this late of an hour?"
The military officers seemed to laugh. The elderly and experienced men shot Kalech with a quizzical look. "No matter what the hour may be, one must always be ready for any type of situation." An officer stated. "Now then, have a seat." He said with a more cordial tone, gesturing to four empty chairs in the center of a rectangular table.
Everyone except Heku took a seat. Heku glared at all of the pompous military commanders, generals, and other high-ranking members of the Lumisian army. Their meeting had been in vain. He clearly knew that anything they would discuss would inevitably end in a complicated, superfluous plan that involved the relentless massacre of Lumisians.
"What is the point of all this?" Heku began. "The plan will always end with the same conclusion: Have Erina, Cerise, Kalech, and I charge in like worthless refuse, kill everything in sight, and have you buffoons laugh in amusement while you cheer us on."
The men frowned in contempt.
"Is that war is to you?!" One man barked. "You think this is all just a game where you somehow always win without any planning?"
"Isn't that always the case?" Heku replied with the same cold emotion. He walked slowly out of the room. "I have no interest in listening to this moronic drivel." He mumbled while he exited the room.
Kalech jumped out of his seat. "Get back here, Hekutaa!" Kalech commanded, enraged.
"Just let him go." Erina said, remaining in her seat with her arms crossed. She did not bother to even look at Heku.
Kalech returned to his seat. He tried to regain his composure by shaking his head and trying to explain Heku's recent attack on Lumisade and how it broke his morale to fight.
The other officers quickly forgave Heku's words, saying that they would be surprised if he did not act like how he did. They asked if they could do anything to help him. All of the men's actions seemed false; from Kalech's point of view, they simply wished to maintain the status quo with Heku. They understood that even the tiniest thing that caused Heku to feel entrapped would cause him to turn against anyone.
The officers began to sift their subject to more pressing matters: The total annihilation of Lumisade.
"What?!" Cerise yelled. "But you'll be slaying hundreds of innocent people!"
"We may be," one officer said, "but we believe that there may be… irremovable remnants from the Lumisian army if we keep the townspeople alive."
"This isn't a war, it's genocide!" Erina roared, standing up. "What on Earth do innocent children have to do with a theory that every Lumisian that still breathes is suddenly in the military?!"
"I assure you that -"
"Enough of your lies!" Erina roared. By this time, she had been screaming at the top of her lungs. Her once stoic-like tendencies had been replaced with that of complete rage. She understood how much pain, how much injustice existed in Frostig. "Is this is how you envision peace? Under the graves on innocents? Do you feel content knowing that a child that does not know how to count is resting underground, and not stabbing at your flimsy, fat back? Is it alright that an fully-trained armed gunman can mow down a dozen Lumisians that don't even know how to even use a kitchen knife, let alone fight back? Can you finally get your abhorrent, flesh-encrusted medal of so-called gallantry after you've bathed in the blood of an invisible enemy? Can't you see? Or is your military uniform draining your intelligence? Nay, is it feeding off your conscience?"
Erina stormed out. Before she left, she gazed at all of the military officers. She said, "And you think Hekutaa is a complete demon spawned from the Inferno? At least he killed those who had a tangible connection to the Lumisian army. You should have seen him when he killed someone completely innocent. It damn near tore him apart. And what of you? Are you too stupid to even understand one tiny iota of actual piece?"
"A-A-And what of you?" The officer asked, trying to empower himself.
"See if you live long enough for your plan to initiate."
Erina slammed the door behind her.
Kalech and Cerise also rose. Kalech shook his head in disdain. The two left in dead silence.
"It would be best to have a gun under your pillow and a good reason why you shouldn't die when you run out of bullets for the night." Kalech advised sadistically.
Kalech closed the door.
The military officers looked at one another in pure terror. Every single one of them began to chatter in panic.
"We've stepped into the lion's den and now we're going to be eaten!" One yelled.
"Why would this happen?! I thought complete destruction would appeal to them!" Another despaired.
"Pandora's box has opened, and it's dragging us to Hell!" A third roared.
The panic began to wane after several moments. All of them understood that going against their strongest troops, especially if their troops consisted of a tangible god, meant an irreversible death sentence. The officers attempted to create an excuse for their deplorable decision, but all of their efforts amounted to nothing.
"Why did it have to end like this?" One officer said, tears of bitter realization rolling down his scraggy cheeks. "Maybe we have-"
The door flew open. Heku stood with his sword ready, along with Erina, Kalech, and Cerise. All their weapons had been drawn. A sensation of a biting frost entered the room heated by the men's effortless squabble at a second chance at life.
"This is a revolt against the chaotic!" Cerise yelled.
"This is a coup from the oppressed!" Kalech roared.
"This is an uprising of the enlightened!" Erina yelled.
"This is the wrath of a soldier scorned by the likes of you." Heku said.
Hey, remember how I was supposed to write the finale to this story?
I got halfway through before I got distracted by three different writing projects: An "Ace Combat" + "M.L.P.: F.i.M." Crossover (don't ask; my "friend" is telling me to do it. I'm exploring the first-person perspective, for the most part), a complete and total rewrite of my original project (this one is next; expect no magic and more story...ness), and a short story on magic realism.
Anyway, have some diabolus ex machina, courtesy of Lumisade, and a deus angst machina, courtesy of the five-man-army.
The ending (still in the works) will be long. Very long.
Chapter 22: Morals
"We can end this with blood or with a unified goal." Heku began.
His voice sounded malevolent, like a demon possessed him. The air around him seemed to emit a chilling atmosphere. His eyes seemed half-open, yet glared at the military officers while his body teetered left and right. A sinister grin covered his face. A feeling of malevolence seemed to emit from the doorway. The light around the room dimmed while the light bulbs above the men flickered wildly.
"Frostig has no need for you soulless monsters." Heku insulted.
"Soulless?!" An officer shouted. "If you think we're the soulless ones, then just reflect upon your actions! You've slaughtered thousands! And for what? Your own freedom?"
"I killed those who forcibly stood in my way. Anyone who does not get in my way is not an enemy." He replied coldly. "Unfortunately, all of you are in my way. Get out of it, or die."
The officers exchanged shrill, frightened looks at one another. They nodded in silence, drawing small pistols from their coat pockets. They stood up from their seats, and pointed their pistols at the group. Fear shook the men into trying to find a resolution to the tension, but their desire to end the war with bloodshed clouded their judgment. Despite a small, short-lived discussion of taking over the Lumisian government through non-violent terms, the men held to their initial idea of killing all Lumisians.
The two sides began to throw insults at one another. Kalech argued that the Lumisians have weakened considerably and a diplomatic takeover would be more viable then the mindless, mass killing of the Lumisians. The officers did not waver. Their adamant belief that total annihilation of their foe seemed welded into their minds. No matter how much the four appealed to the military officers, their efforts flew up in failure. Each pejorative only met a more unwarranted insult from the other side. The two sides were ready to initiate a civil war.
Eventually, Erina and the others grew tired of the bickering. She withdrew her sword while she loudly roared, "Enough." The officers, and even her own comrades, stood down. Despite being unarmed, the sides still appeared volatile; the exchange of glares, their hands poised for a quick brandish of their weapons.
"How do you expect to win the war now?" One of the officers said.
"Before all of us go on a maniacal rampage, let us take the time to consider our… strange circumstances of this meeting." Kalech began.
The two sides knew that prolonging the war would only result in the destruction of both cities. Three long years of fighting wore down both sides, although Vesisade managed to remain in better standing due to Heku and Erina.
"By requesting an armistice." Kalech stated. "We're all tired of this wonderful waste of human life, and it's time that we should learn to coexist." He stepped from the group, recalling all of the screams, all of the innocent civilians desperately clinging to life in a frozen wasteland still alive by the seemingly perpetuating flames of war. "Perhaps we could find something in peace." He said it in doubt.
"And if your plan somehow fails?" An officer inquired.
Kalech continued. "It will not."
The men scoffed, almost like he told a lewd joke. The men's experience with war blinded vision to see other viable and less chaotic options. Disgusted, Kalech turned around and walk out of the door. Cerise and Erina quickly followed suit, yet Heku stayed behind.
The men's laughter began to fade. Heku still stood in front of them. He began to question the morality of the officers. Although Heku lost most of his sanity by reluctantly playing his role as a plaything of death, the men, kindled by their experiences and knowledge of the horrors of war, possessed an even lower respect of life than he did.
Heku emptily gazed at the officers. His stomach turned at the sight of the men. He wished to brandish his sword and simply execute them out of spite, yet refrained by examining them with his glassy eyes. He asked in an empty tone, "Why did the gods interfere with such a trivial war? When did divine intervention occur for humans who treat their lives like ants?"
No one answered. They simply stared at Heku, whose placid gaze seemed to shoot through the men. Minutes passed. Heku kept asking grim, almost insulting philosophical questions the officers. Despite the men's knowledge, they could not answer. Heku, out of another still silence, queried, "Are we no closer to ending the war than when we began three years ago?" Heku desperately yearned for all of the anguish to end. Perhaps that is why he had not abandoned his task; if he could complete his tribulation without the use of macabre killing, even a single hapless soul, he would gladly accept.
The men answered that they should have not vied for war. Anguish enveloped the once strong men, but Heku's almost torturous inquisition about their own values made the war for their very existence into a childish squabble. Speaking, for the officers, seemed physically painful; they stammered with every word, hands shaking and sweat excreting from every orifice, they tried to justify their actions, but every reason for the pointless waste of life sounded of a twisted excuse to slaughter every man and woman in sight.
Heku looked dryly at the men. He felt neither hate nor pity; he felt nothing. His feelings degenerated to either extreme anger, immense sorrow, or inhuman indifference. The many stories that the officers told about sending a young soldier to an assault on the Lumisians, only to be hung violently with his lower jaw ripped so that just one side kept it up (that caused many other soldiers, and even their commanding officers, to retch at the very sight) did not affect Heku in the slightest, yet he still experienced the need to express his concern. Nothing, it seemed, moved Heku. All of the screams, all of the ribbons of flesh and warm blood, seemed to easily pass by his conscience. However, his mind had been relentlessly tormented by his pointless, unjustified killings.
"Heku! We're leaving!" Kalech said, walking up from behind him. He grasped Heku on the shoulder while Heku nodded in compliance. Without looking back on the officers, he turned around and followed Kalech.
The two began to walk to the exit, where Erina and Cerise waited for them. The guards allowed them passage out into the cold, snowing night outside the fortified building. Flakes of snow gently drifted from the starry sky and blanketed the forest with a layer of diamond dust.
The four once more set out to another place. Without any rest and barely a day's forth of provisions, they marched back to the city of Außenwelt through the freezing winter night. Kalech led the way with a small lantern illuminating the snowed-ever forest and gestured where they should travel.
After several moments, the light from Einfall disappeared into the void of night. The wind howled mercilessly while the snow fell relentlessly on the wayfarers. Heku's walk quickly became an exhausted lurch; the once satisfying sound of the snow crunching beneath his feet faded with his loss of energy.
At the back of the row, he collapsed without anyone knowing; the wind grew too strong to hear. His body had been exhausted, his feet and hands frostbitten, yet his eyes remained wide open all the while. His mind did not cease to function, even if he wanted it to stop. His hands extended forward and Heku pushed whatever remained of him up. His mind screamed for him to run away. He felt like he could no longer control his own body, for it had been tantalized by the thought of returning to his normal life.
More than an hour of walking elapsed. The storm dissipated, although the snow still gently rained upon the four. Taking advantage of the reprieve, the four established a small fire with the limbs of leafless trees. They all huddled near the tiny flame to keep the blaze alive amidst the snowstorm.
None of them spoke a word to each other. There was nothing to talk about. Vesisade would send an army to completely destroy Lumisade, and Lumisade would kill the four on sight, even if they warned of the impending doom. The former soldiers guided by the hands of the gods managed to create peace, although much more blood would stain their hands. Even though they slaughtered hundreds in the past, the thought of innocent Lumisians dying by the country that they valiantly defended seemed so twisted, so defiling, that they feared that the gods would be appalled at their choices that they would be subject to a life of damnation.
Kalech stood up, reluctantly commanding his friends to continue traveling to Außenwelt. He tried to brighten the mood by telling them that they would know what to when they arrived.
Their sullen expressions did not change. Battered by failure, drenched in self-loathing, their heads filled with countless regrets and questions. Still, they walked onward.
The blanket of snow impeded their progression through the forest. By the time they reached the outskirts of Außenwelt, the sun began to rise. The four entered the empty village; not a single soul roamed the streets.
"Even though we saved Frostig, it feels that nothing has changed." Cerise lamented.
"It will." Erina added. "For the worse."
Although the four knew that their seemingly impossible task had been completed, they all felt incomplete; they though peace would eventually sprout between the two countries, not a genocide. However, they could not correct their mistakes. Lumisade would kill them immediately if any of its soldiers saw them, and Vesisade would treat them like deserters and kill them.
"This is goodbye." Heku sighed. He walked to the pier, ready to go home back to Da Capo. He had been exhausted from not sleeping for days, and his soul had been weary of the many people that would die by his hand. He wished to leave before any more chaos erupted in Frostig.
He gazed at his left palm. He stared at that hideous mark, the intricate symbol of his otherworldly pact. It was the source of his power, and he found comfort knowing that the mark would someday disappear.
He felt uneasy about leaving Frostig in its time of need, but he did not care; he never had. Neither Cerise, nor Erina, nor Kalech cared for the fate of Frostig. All of them had been pulled into the war out of the god's inability to correct their mistakes. Thoughts of death and despair crept into Heku's mind. He, and everyone else, would return to their lives. Yet he felt that one last task must be completed.
The mere thought of protecting the town that he destroyed made the bile rise in his stomach.
I apologize for being absent for the past weeks: School has killed me, threw me into a wall, crammed me into a sack and tossed me into a river. But I have finished. Your mileage may vary, but I think it ties up the plot well, or well enough.
Finale: An Esoteric Journey
"Even after three years, I still haven't learned my lesson." Heku lamented aloud. "I protect one side, attack the same, then protect, then attack. Neither side wins, they just lose more and more men with every passing day."
"Then what are we to do?" Kalech asked. "Do nothing? Let fate stand on its own?" He asked me, for even he did not know the answer. The past months seemed like utter chaos, with each meticulously planned gambit shattering into a flurry of seemingly detached, random events. All he ever knew was to side with the Vesisians.
"Why not give the Lumisians a chance to fight back?" Erina asked.
They wished for an opportunity to right their wrongs, but so many deaths, so many pointless wastes of precious human life had been stained on their hands that Death seemed to loom amongst them.
Heku could think of nothing, slowly stepping away from the group. With the loudness of a whisper, he said, "Do whatever you need to do. I- I have some unfinished business to see through."
"We'll be there soon." Cerise smiled, trying to hide her insecurity. "We can still stop it."
The four parted ways without another word. Despair loomed above their heads. Without rest nor food, armed only with my chipped, simple sword, Heku wandered back into the forest.
It took him hours to wander back to the ruined mansion. By that time, the sun had already hung high in the sky, but grey clouds obscured the light. The faint sounds of birds whistling filled the tranquil, frigid trees while he entered the looming, broken stone doors to the mansion.
Heku climbed up the mansion, the only sound coming from my heavy breathing. Even though going here was the last thing he wanted to go, something unexplainable called out to him here and commanded him to run up to the remains of the roof.
He reached the roof of the mansion. It looked the same as it did three years ago: a solid, flat roof that overlooked the forest of Außenwelt. A rusted sword had been implanted in the middle of the roof, the blade that Heku used to fell Count Larme. He approached it and lifted the sword, swinging it once. A sense of bitter resentment filled his mind. He had only used the sword only a handful of times back then, and he only killed Count Larme, but not another person more. Now, hundreds of men died for Heku to complete one measly task. Slamming the sword back into the ground, he looked to the direction of Lumisade. Smoke began to rise in the sky. He only wondered what would have happened if Heku went along with them. Would he have defended the Lumisians, or kill every last one of them? Even Heku did not know the answer. He was just a puppet being manipulated by so many other forces that he performed every single task, each one contradicting the result of the other.
He looked to the sky in a mixture of frustration and reflection. To his dismay, Vaughn appeared next to him. Heku glared into his calm eyes; Vaughn's face had been covered in contentment.
"Well now," Vaughn began. "Hekutaa Veles Ranković, you and your friends have completed the task of absolving war within Frostig, but I was certainly surprised on how you executed your plan. You spoke of peace between the two nations, but you ended up destroying one."
His voice made Heku's stomach turn. He clenched my right hand to prevent it from drawing my sword. He wanted to kill him, make him suffer, allow him to know the pain and sorrow he sowed while he reaped the souls of the dead. Vaughn's garbs, dressed with the likeness of a high seraph of lore, only enraged Heku more. Vaughn was a death god, and he knew it. He forced Heku, a once gentile, peace-loving man, to kill. He drove Count Larme, an aristocrat with the knowledge of a scholar and the temperament of a tranquil sky, into a crazed, power-thirsty madman. The term "death god" seemed to high; he appeared more like a child bent on the destruction and torment of his playthings.
"Now for your part of the deal, Vaughn." Heku growled fiercely.
Vaughn nodded in resign. Seeing that Heku performed the task that Vaughn himself could not, he could only repay him with a reward. He stretched his left hand towards Heku.
A blast of light beamed through his hands. Heku experienced a groping, grabbing sensation from within his head, almost like someone searched through his conscience. Wisps swirled around Heku, dancing fervently into the air. They broke through the clouds and let a column of bright light down to where Heku stood. Weak, Heku fell to his knees. He swiftly stood erect, almost like nothing happened. It made him feel uneasy.
"Did it work?" Heku blurted.
"Look at your palm." Vaughn said.
Heku raised his left palm. Vaughn's symbol disappeared. He tried to conjure an icicle by thrusting his hand forward, but nothing happened. All of his shackles have been removes. Every inhibition of his emotion, thought, his otherworldly powers, and his immortality disappeared. He was human again.
But what of his friends? He could only ask mindlessly about the safety of his friends. By that time, they should have already arrived in Lumisade, fighting for one side or the other.
"Bring them here." Vaughn said. "Let whatever loose ends of the deal be sealed up."
Heku turned away and journeyed back to Außenwelt. He seemed more mobile than before; he swiftly sprinted through the snow-covered forest, as if his powers chained him to the ground. Nonetheless, he rushed to Außenwelt, boarding a train to Lumisade.
The train stopped near the borders of Lumisade, and ultimately sent him back to Außenwelt. The Vesisians destroyed the railroads leading to Lumisade, and they occupied the bordering areas to Lumisade. Without his powers, he could not fight his way though. No longer could he mow down a phalanx of soldiers in a single blow, attack with blinding speed, nor strike with the force to split a fortress.
He could only wait. He sat there, sitting on the roof of the ruined building, watching the ambers of war grow into an inferno, a never-ending furnace of battle. Heku suddenly felt no sympathy for who won or who lost; he wailed to save so many lives.
His task was over.
The rotting door opened, making a loud creaking sound. Heku and Vaughn instinctively glanced back, stopping their stagnant exchange of frivolous attempts to discuss how matters came to be.
Kalech and the others appeared on the roof. Sullen faces appeared on all of their faces, their clothes spattered with drops of blood, saturated with dirt and gunpowder. Their disheveled faces told too much of the destruction.
"We were too late." Kalech grimaced.
Kalech dropped his rifle and fell to his knees, laughing.
"All this time I sided with the Vesisians and hoped for Lumisade's destruction." His laugh began to turn into a loud, remorseful sob. "Now that it's happening, I want to stop it."
"We couldn't prevent the onslaught. Not even if we tried." Erina stated, looking remorsefully at the floor.
"Then you have completed your task. Your part, as well as mine, have been completed." Vaughn said. "
Kalech glared fiercely at him. He clenched his fists and approached him, but made a solemn nod in agreement. He threw his rifle to the floor, tears still rolling from his eyes.
"Why did it have to end like this?" He asked.
" For the sake of thousands of lives, thousands of other lives must first be sacrificed. 'Tis the price of order in a world bound to the hands of a god." Vaughn replied. "For three years, you tried to foster peace between the warring lands. In return, you simply propagated the rage that caused the destruction that you tried to prevent."
Heku winced at Vaughn's words.
"Farewell." Vaughn suddenly said, vanishing from the group's view.
The four stood up and exited the manor without another word. Despair gripped them, but they fulfilled their task. Heku stopped at the great, rotting doors to the manor, taking one more glance at the structure. An air of nostalgia wafted through his memories; he was glad that all of the chaos was over. As they closed the rusting metal gates near the manor, the for exchanged slight smiles, acknowledging their past endeavors.
"And thus, by happenstance, four strangers meet to rise to combat a war." Kalech announced, his voice still alight with sadness, "And after such a war, we part, still severed from our lives that were so ruthlessly stolen from us. Our story ends as abruptly as it started; no victory parade, no accolades, not even a pittance of our actions."
"What are we to do now?" Cerise asked.
"Live." Kalech said. "We try to live on."
The four laid down their weapons and into the forests of Außenwelt once more. A journey home awaited their tired bones. The removal of their shackles seemed strange, but welcome.
One year has passed since I returned home, since all of us separated, since all of us tried to purge those painful memories.
It all seems like a dream, now that I began to think about it. After that day, we all seemed to turn our separate ways: I returned back home, which welcomed me to another day in tranquility, away from war. Since then, I have not been able to speak freely of what occurred in Frostig, for many people have never even heard of such a place existing. I do not know what happened to Kalech and everyone else cursed by Vaughn so long ago, but I can only assume that they have repaired Lumisade to its former glory, despite Vesisian rule.
It was not the happy ending I hoped for. Like Kalech, we returned to Außenwelt, but there were no parades in our honor; we never deserved one, even if we spent three grueling years in a frivolous attempt to amass a solution to our task.
Everything still seems unclear to me: why we killed, why we straddled from one side to another, why we propagated the war. I tried to search for answers, but I could only surmise false justifications for our actions.
Maybe something had sprouted amidst our blindness: I knew nothing of the justifications of war and I ran around in circles until my lungs burst. I felt empty, confused, and angered all at the same times. At times, I felt like I wanted to tear my mind in two, to just cast myself in oblivion, far away from my task.
I emerged tranquil. I still do not understand why.
And thus, it ends.
I hope you all enjoyed that odyssey! I'll be posting a short reflection on my writing by tomorrow~
Boy, that was one heck of an odyssey. Still, I could not help but look at some of the inconsistencies I found within my novella.
So I'm going to rewrite it! But first, I need to address a couple of things.
In five separate parts, I have analyzed some of the problems that I believe inhibited the story's flow, and character development, along with how human the individual characters sounded. The five parts consist of:
Flow and pacing
Heku (Yes, there one section dedicated to him. You do not know how badly I wrote him)
First off, I could only think of one major character. Heku. He basically sucked up the limelight in the story to the point that he himself became the absolute focus of the story. Strangely enough, I planned for the troupe Heku travelled with to become the major characters.
I wrote them horribly. They were flat. They had no conflict and if they did, they felt forced and extremely unfitting for that section. Granted, I tried to give them a hint of characterization towards the end of the story, but it was no where near the amount of characterization I needed to give so that they appeared vaguely human.
To combat this, I will stick to only two major characters: Heku and Vaughn. The two have the highest chance to generate a conflict due to their differing beliefs, and I intend to make that a major plot point.
I had a pool of minor characters, which is normal and usually applauded; Heku goes from place to place trying to solve the war, and should naturally meet people willing to help them and those against them. For the most part, I did relatively well, but I made a pretty big mistake: I kill off 90% of them through the course of the story.
Granted, by the time Heku meets a majority of the minor characters, he's gone insane to the point that he'll kill anyone who disrupts a hair on his head, but I felt that their only role in the story was to die a bloody death. Even it was cool.
I can easily summarize the plot: Heku tries to stop a war by bringing peace to both sides. He fails after trying relentlessly. Simple, right? Now try the subplots. Romance was supposed to be implemented, Yari and Flins were supposed to be so much more important, and so many things that I wanted to add seemed… weird to insert. So I abandoned the ideas, and sort of added to the confusion.
This brings me back to the idea of having a limited cast of major characters: with lesser characters, I have a lesser chance making an arc, but I do not abort the arc.
Flow and Pacing
Flow surprisingly went well: little filler moments, and little time spend "doing nothing." For the most part, the "boring parts" that I feared had been adequately replaced by characterization, but I felt that I could have done a little more with characterization, especially with the major characters.
Two words: Mary Sue. I attached a T.V. Tropes article to explain that, and boy did I abuse that. First off, it made Heku so boring and predicable despite his anti-heroic behavior. He also uses a sword, which is somewhat odd considering the time. If I just gave him ice powers and no weapon, it would be slightly more believable.
Heku is a little strange; A majority of the aborted arcs (see plot threads) had been centered around him, so his characterization is very fragmented. In my rewrite, I'll be focusing on Heku and Vaughn more, so a majority of their characterization will come from their skew in personality traits.
One more thing: How common is a name of "Hekutaa"in Germany, where I set my story? No one. His name was blatant stupidity on my part.
New Protagonists Approach!
I'm splitting the role of "main character" into two distinct parts: The "Hero" protagonist, and the "Supporting" protagonist. In short, a "Hero" protagonist is the protagonist we all know an love: they save the day, beat up the monster, and live happily ever after. A "Supporting" protagonist is a not a hero, per se, but the story is told through their point of view. The plot will feature the Hero and Supporting protagonists on their separate ways, but will frequently intertwine with one another. Unfortunately, I'm going to show you one side of the story, because I still have to work out several things with my other protagonist.
For our rewrite of "Between Innocence and Resolve," we have our hero protagonist.
Enter: Linus Kuester : Age: 19, Rank: Rifleman, Alliance: Lumisian. A much more appropriate main character, and a lot more relatable, I hope. Linus is a combination of Heku and Kalech, to sum him up. And for all intents and purposes, let's say that Linus has some problems with the physical manifestation of his anima that has a mind of its own.
Expect to see a rewrite sometime in November! In the meantime, I have another project to work on. I'll tell you when it becomes pertinent
Hey everypony everyone! I’m almost ready to return to the guild for some super-happy-ultra-fantastical-adjective-joyous fun in Trickster! I have been thirsting to get back for some time now, and it’s about time that I return in full force!
But I still have some work to do. This week is stop week, meaning absolutely nothing in academia (although it once meant that teachers could not give out homework). After that is Finals Week, which means I’ll just be at school for four hours a day instead of the usual twelve. So I might be able to sneak a bit of time actually doing something remotely productive on Trickster instead of AFK-ing as per usual.
Now to why I actually made this post: I was supposed to rewrite “Between Innocence and Resolve” during my hiatus, but I forgot. Whoops I know I promised a rewrite, but college applications happened..
Ponies distracted me, and somehow gave me a positive outlook on live, changing me from the usually brooding, distant over-perfectionist into… a less angsty person. I got Memory Spell’d by Twilight Sparkle, okay?! Let’s not speak of this again. Long story short, after watching Ponies, I wanted to go back to the guild that helped me spark my new outlook on life (read: Bronydom) and hang around for as long as winter break permits.
And I somehow found myself writing a Ponies fanfic. This was somehow more important that rewriting BIoR and I blame this for not keeping up with my schedule.
Here, have a sample.
A deafening, ear-piercing explosion was the last thing I heard. A ball of fire engulfed my wings and sharp fragments of shrapnel shattered my goggles as I looked back. Smoke from the explosion filled my lungs, burning them. The hot air choked my throat and singed my lungs, rendering me unable to scream in pain. Spiraling out of control, I desperately tried to remain steady, but the explosion severely injured my left wing. A mixture of blood and sweat danced before my eyes, shrouded in a pall of smoke while my comrades fervently fended off their attackers in a twisted waltz for their lives, the enemies partaking in a delightful hunt of their unarmed prey.
Contrails of black smoke surrounded by bolts of lightning swirled by overhead, covering the skies. Large brown griffins with monstrous talons chased after my squadron.
A single griffin waited for me to crash into the forest below the skirmish. It circled in the air, waiting impatiently for the large tree branches to impale my weakened body. A bright, yellow claw had been emblazoned below its majestic, awesome wings. I saw the griffin reload her shoulder-mounted cannon with another missile. I was shot down by a single explosive bolt; a Wonderbolt could have avoided a storm of missiles without breaking a sweat. It spun victoriously in the air the moment the griffin and I fell into the sea of trees below.
I crashed into the forest. Several leafy tree limbs cushioned my fall, but I felt an unsettling crack reverberate through my body.
"...Negative." I heard over my ringing ear. It was my captain speaking, but his voice was faint. I could only hear the faint echoes. "Spitfire… sorry."
I blacked out.
Expect that to be done… By June. It’s only seven chapters, but I intend to put a massive effort into this one if I want to get a 6-Star on Equestria Daily.
But anyway, I’m just telling all of you that I’m going to be back in a week, hopefully.
Oh, and I’m going back to my DA Lion build when fate permits it. For true this time.
Happy anniversary, "Between Innocence and Resolve!"
To celebrate, I have rewritten the story. So in essence, a complete recreation of the war between Lumisade and Vesisade. The plot is going to be 20% more consistent an much more easier to follow (I hope)
Prologue: A Pall of Fire
He shot up. Instinctively, Linus began to look from left to right, trying to find the person who called his name. Amidst the field filled with golden wheat, not a single soul was found. The wind whistling through the forest nearby startled him, Linus thought. He returned to his job collecting wheat; there were acres of wheat left to reap before sundown.
"Linus, remaining idle will bring about your death!"
"Who's there?" Linus quickly shot back. He raised his scythe defensively as he carefully inspected his surroundings.
A willowy man before appeared before Linus, a smug half-smile across his face. His skin was almost glass-like, as Linus could see through the man's pale, grey body. It was as if a shadow had sprung from the ground and began to talk to him.
Linus' hands shook violently. The scythe and his arms danced to the tempo of his frightened gasps of air, to which the man stared aloofly at.
"Wh-who are you?!" Linus asked, his voice going faint.
"What do you mean?"
The ghost gestured to the sky above the forest. Black smoke soon began to rise from the other end; Blaustadt was burning.
Linus stood in terror. He looked to the ghost in hope of an explanation, but saw a stern face of impatience. The ghost told him to run, but Linus ran in the direction of the fire.
"What are you doing?!" The ghost roared.
Linus did not answer. He ran through the forest, his legs moving with a sense of bile curiosity. Soon, ash from the fire began to fall like flakes of blackened snow. The sweet scent of the forest's flowers were replaced by the stench of burning wood. Roars like the sound of a distant thunderstorm echoed through the trees.
"Linus, turn back immediately!"
"No!" Linus shot back. "There're people that I need to help!"
He passed by a church on the outskirts of Blaustadt; it was still standing, unperturbed by the fire. Linus leaned on its walls to catch his breath.
"There is not much-"
"Why do you want me to run away?!" Linus snapped. "There are people that I care about that will die if I just run away! If you're so afraid of what's happening to Blaustadt, then flee!"
"Very well. I'll simply step back and watch from afar." The ghost said, sighing in resignation. He drifted away from Linus, and waited by the church's doors.
Linus continued to Blaustadt without the ghost. Embers swirled past his eyes as he passed through the stone walls that guarded Blaustadt. Sounds of explosions and the cries of panicked men and women filled the air. He rushed to the mercantile district; they worked there.
"Mr. Weiss! Miss Weiss! Karla!" Linus yelled as he ran towards the district. He tried to find at least one of them as he searched among the fleeing people. Swerving through the crowds of people and avoiding the collapsing buildings torched by fire, he continued searching.
He ran in the opposite direction of the fleeing townspeople and searched the streets of the mercantile district. By the time he reached the store that Karla and her parents worked, it had succumbed to the fire. Linus called out their names for another time, but could not. His voice had been exhausted, his body weak from the smoke and ash he inhaled.
He returned to the church, weakened, empty-handed, and infuriated. The ghost only shook his head.
"I assume that you did not find your companions." The ghost said, a tinge of sorrow in his voice.
Linus did not answer. He sat on the wall of the church, slumped and unresponsive.
He looked up at the ghost, and asked in a feeble tone, "Blaustadt was such a peaceful place. What's happening?"