Story: Between Innocence and Resolve
Alright, after about a month of being a member of Mirage Coordiantor, I decided to write up a story with members of the guild within it.
Note:Writing takes a long, long time to complete. Please be wary of sporadic updates!
Between Innocence and Resolve
Witness the journey of a hero unwilling to complete his task of stopping a war between two feuding lands. However, this war can only be stopped by the gods, who impart their powers to our hero.
Forlorn Chivalry (Working Title)
Blaustadt bursts into flames, and a ghost tells Linus Kuester, a man working a temporary job as a farm hand, to flee. The ghost does not explain why he must run away, or why the spirit still clings to the living.
Chapter 1: Trial
A flash of light shone through Heku's eyes. He squinted at the light, noticing a stalky shadow in the shape of a man. Cold mist exited from Heku's cell while he gazed in indifference. He looked back at this hands, then drooped back into his pensive disposition.
He knew that his punishment for his crime did not pass. His 250-year sentence had only been served for one week, it appeared to Heku. He stayed awake the entire week, without food nor drink, only sit and stare at his hands in total darkness and in frigid temperatures.
"Hekutaa?" The man sternly spoke.
Heku did not respond.
"Hekutaa Veles Ranković!" The man said again, raising his voice.
Heku did not respond.
"We want you to fight for Lumisade. Will that rattle you awake?" The man roared impatiently.
"You… want me…. To fight…?" Heku whispered, his voice hoarse from disuse.
"Yes." The man said, placing a contract in Heku's open, frigid hands. "We cut you a deal; you fight under the banner of Lumisade, you have a reduced sentence."
"Why…?" Heku asked, staring blankly into the contract.
"Good question." The man said, turning away.
"And Cerise?" Heku asked, beginning to stand up.
"Should you fight under Lumisade, her sentence will be rescinded." The man replied, walking out of Heku's cell.
Heku looked in disbelief while he gazed at the light-filled doorway in front of him. He slowly stood up, his legs almost shaking from misuse. He slowly walked through the doorway. He covered his eyes with his shoulder, trying to adjust to the light in the room. He leaned on the doorway, trying to balance himself.
"Hekutaa…?" A feminine voice beckoned.
Heku's eyes began to adjust to the light, slowly seeing the grey and dreary surroundings. He looked upon a heavily windowed hallway, gazing at the falling snow, which seemed to illuminate the grey, empty hallway. He looked ahead of him, and noticed a slim, tall woman in a black dress, accented with red fabrics. She smiled at Heku, her light blue eyes staring into Heku's sullen, purple eyes.
"Oh, thank goodness you're okay!" The woman said, rushing towards Heku to embrace him. She rushed towards Heku with her arms wide open and then held him tenderly. He warm arms wrapped around Heku's cold body while her scarlet, wavy hair seemed to emanate warmth. Heku stood, almost completely untouched with her tremendous amount of affection.
"Cerise…" Heku spoke coldly. "Why... did you-?"
"It doesn't matter!" Said Cerise, shaking Heku by the shoulders in excitement. "We're finally free! We can finally-"
"No, Cerise. You will escape with your freedom" Heku interrupted, a tinge of emotion erupting from his voice. "but I must take up my burden. Go ahead, live the life you yearned for without inhibitions."
"What?!" Cerise exclaimed, gazing at Heku in confusion, a puzzled expression on her face. "But… why?"
Heku smiled, shaking his head. He embraced Cerise while she stood, almost petrified with the amount of punishment he forced himself to atone for. He looked at Cerise, gazing into here eyes while he smiled and then walked away. Cerise, still confused stared emptily into Heku's empty cell. She felt a cold breeze emanate from the room while she walked closer into it. Cerise shivered while she tried to inspect Heku's cell, noticing a pitch-black environment, with only a small toilet and a cot.
She knew something was wrong. No one can survive in such a room without going insane. Even the Lumisian government, with charges on Heku for killing their ruler, could not possibly accept such an abhorrent punishment by placing Heku in a pitch-black, frigid room .
"Why… Why would you do this to yourself, Hekutaa?" She asked, expecting a response.
"Ms. Clemenceau?" A voice echoed across the hallway.
Cerise turned around, spying a man in a brown coat and pants. The man walked towards Cerise, a puzzled expression on his face.
"Ms. Clemenceau" Said the man, trying to lead Cerise out of the building. "You do not need to stay here any longer. Please, let me escort you out of this building."
"Wait." Said Cerise, looking back on the open cell. "Tell me why you put Heku in such a deplorable room."
"Oh, that room?" Said the man. "It's strange. He asked if he could be put in that kind of room. Call me skeptical, but I think he wanted to stay in that room for his entire sentence."
Without another word, the man directed Cerise out of the building, walking down the gray, dreary hallway and down a flight of spiraling staircases. In a few moments, the two reached the main entrance of the prison.
"There's the exit. Enjoy your freedom." The man said to Cerise, promptly walking away.
Still confused with Heku's actions, Cerise stared at the doors of the prison, glancing at the guards near the doorway. She slowly walked towards the door, and suddenly heard a large clamor of politicians and other onlookers.
"Ha! Bring that criminal in to fight for us?! Preposterous!" Yelled one man.
"What is this fool trying to do?!" Roared another. "A reduced sentence for every Vesisian he kills! At his rate of deaths, he'll be free after the first battle!"
"First he kills our ruler, and then tries to disgrace our military?! What will he do next?!" Cried a third.
Intrigued, Cerise followed the large congregation of politicians, leading her into a court room willed with chattering people. In the center of the large, hollow court room, stood a man, chained to the floor while he faced a large court, who sat upon a large platform, looking down on the man.
"Hekutaa Veles Ranković!" A man upon the large platform bellowed.
The entire crowd fell silent at the sound of the judge's voice.
"You stand here today, only one month into your 250-year sentence for the ruthless murder to Wilhelm Nightingale, 17th King to Lumisade, the city of Eternal Snow." The judge said, his voice echoing throughout the entire room.
Hekutaa looked up at his judge, his long, charcoal-black hair covering his left eye. He gazed emptily at the man, and then transfixed his gaze directly in front of him.
"However, in recognition of your prowess, I, Judge Delano Rousseau along with the provisional government of Lumisade, wish to give you an ultimatum." He continued.
"An… ultimatum?" Echoed Heku.
"Yes. We will allow you to join our military. For every enemy combatant killed by your hand, we will reduce your penalty one day. Should you decline, we will simply put you back into your cell for the rest of your days." Judge Rousseau sternly spoke, gazing at the chattering audience.
"That's insane!" One observer whispered. "That man, or whatever it that thing might be is a total wild card! Who knows what'll happen!"
"Say what you want, but Lumisade needs people to fight." Whispered another. "Don't you think the judge knows that already? Besides, it's not like he'd decline to that offer."
"Silence!" Rousseau roared, furiously looking upon the crowd. The elderly judge, regaining his composure, lowered his gaze back to Heku, who appeared completely unfazed by his deal.
"Hekutaa Veles Ranković, have you reached a decision?"He asked, expecting Heku to take his deal.
Heku looked up, almost smirking at the judge. He then lowered his head, chuckling lightly. The judge, still confident with the ultimatum he presented to Heku would accept his terms, stroked his long, white, bushy beard in triumph.
"I want… exile." Heku emotionlessly said, staring at the ground beneath him.
"Exile?!" Judge Rousseau yelled, clenching his fists. The old man appeared to shuffle out of his seat, but stopped, only taking a deep breath and reclining himself back into his wooden, ornate chair.
"Now, I must have misheard your reply, Hekutaa." The judge said, chuckling hysterically, as if Heku's plea seemed like a cruel joke to him. "Now, I'll give you one more chance: What will your choice be?"
"Exile." Heku repeated, glaring at Rousseau.
"You… despicable, little runt!" Yelled Judge Rousseau. "You had your chance at freedom, and now you shall pay for your crimes!" He signaled the guards around the room, pointing at Heku. "Guards! Seize this man!" He bellowed.
Heku sighed in disappointment, closing his eyes while an archaic magic circle mysteriously appeared from under his feet. Heku's charcoal, long hair begin to lift, as if a strange demonic wind began to flow from beneath him. He smiled grimly while his body began to give off a purple, demonic glow. The large, metal chains that kept him from moving suddenly shattered, freeing Heku. Heku looked at his hands, shaking violently while small sparks of red thunder jumped from his hands. Heku then looked at the guards surrounding him, keeping entrapped in a circle with their lowered halberds.
"If you value your life" Heku growled, his voice sounding like two separate voices speaking his words. "I would stay back."
The phalanx of guards that once charged towards Heku cautiously stepped back in precaution. Heku then walked towards the judge's platform, smiling at the judge's horrified face.
"Now, will you reconsider your stance on my terms?" Heku asked.
"Not-not o-on my life, y-y-you monster!" The judge stammered, shaking in fear.
Heku shook his head in impatience. He snapped his fingers, creating another black, archaic circle filled with mystical symbols, under his feet. Heku raised his right hand, making the chattering audience that once shuffled in their seats in anxiety stop. Black, arrow-like objects swirled from Heku's fingers, spreading out to surround Judge Rousseau. He lowered his hand swiftly, causing the dark projectiles to fire at Rousseau. He cried in fear, watching one arrow touch his grey, bushy beard.
They suddenly stopped.
"Now will you accept my terms?" Heku sighed impatiently.
His shadow began to elongate in front of the judge, transforming into a silhouette of a man holding a strange, floating ball. Rousseau stared at the shadow in terror, thinking that a demon possessed Heku. In disbelief, he blinked once, yet the silhouette behind Heku changed back into a shadow of Heku's body.
"Honestly," Heku continued, his voice suddenly changing into a gruff tone. "do you think you have a choice?"
The judge remained silent, his eyes completely wide open due to shock. His body winced while his mouth moved, seemingly making out the word "Yes." The judge then attempted to rattle himself out of his shock, slumping in his seat while he regained his composure.
"Hekutaa… Veles…. Ranković…" Rousseau softly spoke, completely stricken with fear. "I-I-I sentence you-you to e-e-exile to-to-to the city of Roman. Court-court is adjourned u-until tomorrow. "
Content with the judge's ruling, Heku walked out of the courtroom, the entire room in silence. The sound of Heku's shoes tapping on the marble floor of the courtroom echoed, the entirety of the audience focused on the judge, who slumped in his chair. His eyes stared emptily ahead of him, as if Heku killed him.
Hekutaa exited the courtroom, closing the mahogany doors behind him. He looked behind him with a face of disdain, shaking his head. He stared at his left hand, which had a strange, circular glyph on the center of his palm. He moved his fingers in his left hand, then made his hand into a fist.
Heku looked up, looking up at Cerise's shocked face.
Nice fic so far. ;O
Now for the moment I thought the setting would take place in some Victorian-era (since the witches of Mirage Coordinator wear something like that). But yea. Still pro so far~
Chapter 2: Self-Loathing
Erina sat in a dark room, a small, melting candle placed in front of her while she gazed emptily into the flame. Her mind, still seemingly fixated on Heku, seemed filled to the brim of all her regrets one month ago.
One month ago, she stood alongside Heku in attempt to destroy what seemed to herald the destruction of Frostig. She fought Heku along the phalanxes of soldiers ready to kill them in hopes of fostering peace throughout the war-torn land.
Now she is only his worst enemy.
A day after Heku turned himself in to the Lumisian government after mistakenly killing their king, she vanished without a trace. Not a whisper nor a clue existed about her whereabouts. She wandered for days on end, not stopping to eat or sleep, in hopes of "running away" from her problems.
Now she is a general of an army.
Erina sat upright, surveying the dark room around her. She stared at a large, shrouded window across the room, listening to the relentless patter of rain hitting the glass. She slumped back into her chair, entranced by the dying, flickering light of the candle.
"Erina?" A voice said from across a room in a slight Russian accent.
Erina sluggishly turned around, wincing at the light from across her room. She saw a faint silhouette of a man leaning on the doorway, and then walking towards her.
"Kalech?" Erina inquired. "What are-"
"We're preparing to make a strike on Lumisade. We need you at-"
"Forget it, Kalech." She grunted, turning around.
"Why? Still concerned about Heku, are 'ya?"
"Yeah. Now just leave me alone to wallow in my own self-pity for some time."
"Just leave me alone!"
"Fine. Just be ready before we depart, alright?"
Kalech slowly closed the door to Erina's room. She scoffed in anger, and then blew out the candle in front of her.
Meanwhile, Kalech left Erina's room, walking into a long, velvet hallway. He entered a room, filled with maps. A group seated around a rectangular table looked at Kalech while he entered the room. He nodded sternly at the individuals and then sat down on a far end of the table.
"Erina could not join us tonight, everyone. Let us begin our briefing anyway. Arkwreight, please begin." He said, folding his hands while he covered his mouth and nose in a pensive way.
"R-Right." A young man next to Kalech began, slowly standing up.
Arkwreight appeared as a young man in a slim, fiery-red military coat, having a pair of goggles on his forehead, giving the peak of his unkempt, brown hair a small lift. A lax aura surrounded him: Arkwreight's legs being bow-legged an crooked while he stood up, scratching the back of his head while he gazed around the room.
"There's a rumor floating around that Hekutaa was sentenced to exile to a remote suburb in the kingdom of Lumisade, a place called Roman, the City of Vines." Wreight continued, suddenly standing erect.
"That's where we come in. While the other Vesisian troops prepare for a frontal assault, we 'flank' Roman, get Heku out, and continue our assault." Interrupted another man in a low, German accent, placing his elbow on the brown, polished table.
The man held a gruff appearance from his clothing: A fitting, black tunic with large steel guards protecting his right arm. A bright, tan-colored fur collar seemed to move with the man with every movement the man made, yet the man seemed very distant and to an extent, indifferent with the dissention in the conference.
"Exactly, Nuage!" Kalech exclaimed. "We bust Heku out!"
"Slow down, Kal." Nuage grunted. "How do we even know if Heku wants to escape the kingdom of Lumisia?"
"Are you joking?! They sentenced him to 250 years of-"
"Wait." Weight interrupted. "Kalech, let's remember what happened a month ago: Remember that Heku willingly gave himself up to the Lumisian government!"
Kalech fell silent.
He slumped in his chair, trying to sort out all of the facts that have been laid out in front of him. Knowing Heku, a calm person unless provoked, Heku would have escaped from his imprisonment the day the Lumisians arrested him.
Nothing made sense to Kalech Stormont anymore. He thought that assisting Heku out of his punishment would be the correct thing to do, yet all of his actions seemed to hint that he wished to atone for his mistakes.
"So what do we do now?" Kalech asked, growing frustrated. "If we try to liberate Heku from his imprisonment, what if he becomes a rogue element and fight against us?"
"Then we have a problem." Nuage sighed. "You all know what happened one month ago. He's like some sort of… of…"
A description of Heku seemed to escape from Nuage's speech. One month ago, Nuage, Hekutaa, and all of the individuals that Heku once ventured with, fought a demonic, megalomaniac man bent on destroying the world with a power that seemed to rival that of a god's. Heku and his companions prevailed, leaving a small seed that contained all of the man's power. Heku, in hopes of eradicating the destructive power, destroyed the seed, causing the unimaginable power within the to possess him. He gained an innumerable amount of knowledge and strength, yet the spirit of the chaotic man dwelled within Heku, simply waiting to finish its task.
"Right…" Wreight mumbled. "There's no telling what will happen now."
"Our plan still deserves a try, even if it transforms into a suicide mission." Kalech reasoned.
"I guess we don't have much of a choice , do we?" Nuage agreed.
"I'm fine. I still have a score to settle with Heku anyway. How 'bout you, Fleur?" Wreight said, standing up.
Wreight looked at a young girl with brilliant blue eyes and long, jet black hair with curls at the end of her hair. She stood up, fluffed her brilliant, shining white overcoat while she walked out of the room.
"What's gotten into her?" Blankly inquired Nuage.
"I think she's trying to tell us to split up." Wreight said. "Knowing her, I think that something's troublin' her."
Kalech nodded in acceptance. "Here," He said, formulating a quick plan in his head, "Fleur, Nuage, and you go assist in the frontal attack. Erina and I, on the other hand, will take care of Heku. Sound fair?"
Nuage nodded, then looked at Wreight. He nodded in agreement, then swiftly exited the room. Nuage followed suit, stopping his stride at the doorway. He looked behind him, spying Kalech sketch a plan for their seizure of Lumisade.
"Don't you go abandoning us again." He mumbled under his breath.
"Don't you go running away in times of need again." Argued Kalech.
Nuage slammed the door behind him. Kalech sighed, shook his head to regain his composure, stood up tall, and exited the room.
He walked through the red, velvet-lined corridors of the Lumisian castle, walking until he reached Erina's room at the end of the hallway, and then opened the door.
Erina still sat in her chair, as if she was petrified.
"Save your breath, Kalech." Erina growled.
She sluggishly stood up and plucked a sheathed rapier beside her doorway, trying her best to avoid eye contact with Kalech. She had a slight limp in her step, her tall body almost struggling to stand upright.
She stood in the bright hallway, exposing her dark-golden, hair which curled at the tips of her hair. A portion of her hair covered her half-open eyes, obscuring her vacant and sullen expression on her face.
She was dressed in a dark-green blouse with an ornately-tied, bright white cravat with a red, sparkling jewel in the center. Her black skirt stretched to her knees, while a pair of black boots were carefully strapped to her legs.
"What the hell's gotten into to you?!" Kalech snapped.
"Really now?" He said sarcastically. "Spending hours in the rain, staring at a candle, not even eating, and you call that nothing?!"
"Just leave me alone."
"Great. You even sound like Heku."
"Shut up! You try to make everything right, but you just make people feel worse about themselves!" Erina snapped, ready to draw her rapier at her friend.
Kalech smiled wryly in bittersweet accomplishment.
"There's the Erina I know." He said, chuckling faintly, a tinge of disgust in his voice.
"What…?" Erina asked puzzled.
"Now come on; I devised a plan to allot you to talk to Heku." Kalech continued. "Since our latest plan involves a two-pronged strike, I thought it might give you a chance to talk to him."
Erina smiled, then returned to her indifferent, sullen expression. "Now what makes you so confident that he'll even want to see me?
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"I could have stopped him from taking such a harsh sentence, I could have stopped him when we tried to stop-"
"You really blame yourself for all of Heku's… changes?!"
"You didn't do anything to harm him. After all we've been through, I saw you being the most loyal person to Heku in his most desperate times of need. And now you suddenly blame yourself for all that's happened?! "
"Get a grip on yourself! What happened to that headstrong, compassionate person I called Erina?!"
"Look, we don't have enough time to keep arguing like this; be on the railway depot within ten minutes, or else we're leaving without you."
"Alright…" Erina said weakly.
Kalech smiled bitterly, and then walked away.
"Wait." She said softly.
Kalech stopped abruptly, looking back at Erina.
"If you're wondering why I exploded at you, Heku did that to me the first time I met him. I was in so much anguish and self-loathing when I lost Laura, but then Heku bashed me on my feet. I thought I would do the same to you."
"Thanks Kalech." Erina smiled, standing up tall. "I'll be at the depot shortly."
"Fantastic!" He said, continuing his stride.
Very juicy fic so far. I like and maybe will spread word to my other buddies outside of TO...
I THINK I got the idea for the character behind Erina so far. But the rest of the cast, I almost got lost on relating to the members of Mirage Coordinator. o-o; You think it would be nice to make a spoiler list of cast and the TO names? (At least so far in the fic.)
Off-topic: I updated the bios with new characters. BTW requires a bit of Umineko knoledge to know what "Game-Pieces" are... But yea.
I have a little explanation on the characters. It's a bit of a spoiler, so...
Ah okay then~
I hope the next chapter will come up~ :)
Chapter 3: Runaway
Heku gazed blankly at Cerise's distraught face. Has she seen what happened in the courtroom?
"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.
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."
"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.
"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!"
"Th-then why go to Roman?!"
"To live out my days in peace."
"Oh? Then why haven't I destroyed this train? Why haven't I killed you two yet?"
What a read so far. *Thumbs up*
I have this image of Flins like Lavi from D.Gray-Man, but that's just me. ^^;
Wow, this is really good. Got some talent thar~ C: 'Specially like the time period chosen, since not a lot of reads without a typical storyline take place in it. Keep it up. -thumbs up-
I'm sticking this thread. :) Every guild member should take a good read at this~
Alright! Thanks, Timer! This'll keep me motivated~
Chapter 4's coming up soon, but I'm working on a little character development between Heku and Erina. Hopefully it will make sense, but it gives them more "human" traits in my eyes.
Chapter 4: Pensive
A loud clang shook the train car.
Erina sat on a small table, gazing emptily out a foggy window, almost like she never left her room. So many thoughts ran through her mind. Every mistake, every argument with Heku; Even if she closed her eyes, a faint burn of Heku's face shone from beneath her eyelids.
"Just get out of my head!" She mumbled weakly.
"Mmm?" Kalech grumbled lazily, slowly waking up from a nap.
He sat in front of Erina, seemingly content amongst the chattering men in crimson-red uniforms. The two seemed like the only ones silent within the train car. Everyone else either chanted a prayer of safety, guzzling down their "last" drink, or telling humorous stories to rid themselves of the unshakable fear of death.
Because, as it were, death was a routine, yet painful experience. Countless young men died within the war, all of their macabre ways of death searing into the malleable minds of the soldiers. Those alive appear all too paralyzed to even function; All they can do now is just fire rounds of ammunition with a blank look on their faces, almost begging for a swift passing, bargaining with the devil for a spot in Hell.
"Hey, Erina," Kalech spoke gently, acting like a compassionate parent. He saw through Erina's gloomy façade, knowing that she fell under a spell of innumerable grief. To her, Heku had died. He felt a surge of bitter bile rise up his stomach, knowing well that Erina's pain echoed his own reaction towards losing a loved one. "A-anything on your mind?"
"Just thinking." She soullessly replied.
She looked angrily at Kalech. She sighed in resignation, "I just don't know anymore. I fell that I just..."
"Don't know what to do." Kalech added. "Yes, I know how such a feeling of uselessness feels."
Erina began to smile slightly. At least she knew someone that felt the same pain of isolation and a loss to someone she holds dearly to. She sighed in reminiscence of the old days: The days of when Heku and she took the same fencing classes for "fun," instead of relying upon them every waking moment on Frostig for mere survival. Her memories opened up like a picture book, switching to another memory of Heku and herself.
They were walking into the streets of the little, isolated town of Serdin, where they attended school six years ago. She remembered that Heku always tried to win her affection by simply being close to her and trying to word cunning remarks just to see her bright, tender smile. She always smiled back at Heku.
For something so miniscule, for just a simple humorous sentence to echo in her mind, was something that she desperately wanted.
Maybe she just wanted to hear Heku's voice talking to her.
Maybe she finally felt the immense affection Heku wholeheartedly gave to win her love.
Maybe she just wanted to run away. Just to run from all of the war and sadness that echoed in its wake. She yearned to escape the island of Frostig and return to Serdin with Heku and just live a peaceful life. She recalled Heku talking about "just getting away from the mundane world and pursue something… something."
"Just pursue something…. Something…. But what did you want, Heku?" She thought.
She felt her heart grow heavy, her stomach shriveling up, and her fingertips crow cold. She felt the pain Heku held by his unrequited love to Erina, yet all of his efforts simply shattered before his eyes.
Her mind then revealed to her one last memory: the memory of Heku's final battle against Count Sanguine three years ago.
Heku's voice replayed perfectly in her mind, almost as if he stood next to Erina, "Erina… Erina, I lo- I'm… I'm sorry. I will not burden you with such a thought."
"Hey, we're here." Kalech blurted out, snapping Erina out of her introspective state.
"Now, only half of the troops here will accompany you. Meanwhile, I, and my team will create a delayed attack with Nuage and everyone else. Do you think you can handle Heku on your own?" Kalech explained.
"Yes." She said, standing up.
She felt weak and immobile when she stood up, her vision fading slightly while she look at her surroundings. The train finally stopped, the doors slowly opening.
"Now it's time." She mumbled to herself. "I can finally ask Heku what's been going on. What's been in his mind, what's been keeping him here."
The train car emptied, leaving Kalech alone. He closed his eyes while flippantly kicking his legs up on the table in front of him.
"Good luck." He mumbled under his breath.
Erina stood outside, under the snow with a squadron of thirty. The train slowly departed, beginning a clamor among the troops.
She coolly drew her ornate, shining white rapier and drew it close to her head. A faint wind began to flow to the left of her, kicking up sparkling, bright green leaves. The leaves glimmered a bright white color. Erina then became covered in a olive-green, glowing armor. A short, bright-red skirt flowed to her knees and a green sheath wrapped in gold patterns hung by the left side of her body. An armored visor hung atop her forehead, decorated by white feathers at the side. Her golden hair became tied behind her back while part of her hair remained the front, partially blocking her right eye.
She sheathed her rapier, shouting to the men, "Let this battle end in either total loss or total success!"
The soldiers roared vehemently, raising pikes, swords, banners, and rifles. Erina pointed to the small town of Roman, about a mile away. The men assembled into a box-like formation and began to march behind Erina.
Chapter 5: Schism
The train came to a cracking halt.
The sound of a large congregation arguing with one another roared from outside the train.
Shiro scowled while he looked around the train car, inquiring "What the hell's going on here?!"
Flins shrugged lightheartedly.
"I don't know, maybe something's happening?" He said, trying to make sense of the clamor.
"Sounds like something bad." Heku said.
"Tch, you would know." Shiro grumbled.
The car doors flew open. Soon, the train car became overflowing with people from Roman, clamoring frantically, "We're all going to die!"
Heku, Cerise, and the others managed to squeeze their way out of the car, gazing at all of the townspeople rushing to flee.
"What the hell is going on here?!" Flins said. His happy aura faded quickly when he saw his parents and younger sister rush into the train like a school of frightened fish into a net. He called to his parents, "Mom! Pop! Emilia! Wait!"
His parents looked briefly at him, but continued on, almost like he became a complete stranger. Emilia, his only sister, ran to him, almost crying. She seemed to look young, at the age of twelve. Emilia ran into her shocked brother's arms, weeping woefully."
"Yari!" She cried. "Make them go away! Make them go away!"
"Who, Emilia?!" Flins asked, looking straight into her shining blue eyes.
"Vesisians!" She wept, crying into his shoulders.
"Vesisians?! Here?!" Shiro roared. "Damn it! We don't have anyone who can fight them off!"
"We do." Heku said. "I'll do my best to protect Roman, and your brother, Emilia."
Emilia cringed at the sight of Heku. She felt that something evil encircled Heku. She embraced her older tightly, her weeping subsiding. Flins knelt to the ground, wiping off the tears from Emilia's eyes.
"Now listen, Emilia. You go with Mom and Pop. Hide. I swear, I will protect Roman!" He said courageously.
"Mmhmm…" She nodded, her body shaking in terror. She ran back to her parents, waving goodbye to her brother.
The last of the townspeople boarded the train. It took off without a warning.
Flins slowly stood up, drawing a knife and pistol from his faded, green uniform. He felt an immense amount of fury grow from beneath his hands, yet also felt his stomach turn upside down at the sight of himself dying.
"Heku, did you really mean…"
"Yes. I came to Frostig to protect the one I loved. I may seem like some sort of death god, but there exists no differentiation between us: You care deeply for your sister, I harbor feelings for something unattainable." He said.
"Heku, do you really think we can repulse a phalanx of Vesisians?" Cerise asked. "Furthermore, Kalech, or god forbid, Erina will be with them!"
"If I die fighting, I die fighting." He replied.
To die. That was Heku's only thought the past month. Not Erina, not Cerise, but death. His yearning to simply fade away into obscurity seemed to grow exponentially every passing day since he stepped foot on Frostig three years ago. The power of a god, a destructive curse, he wanted it all gone. To live life normally, along with Erina, used to encapsulate his daily goal.
Now, all he can focus on is Cerise and his own death.
"Flins, can you get us to Roman?" Heku asked.
"Yes, follow me!" He replied urgently, running away immediately.
Cerise and Heku followed Flins down a path that lead to a forest. Shiro stayed behind, looking at the sky in disdain. He felt his hands tremble slightly and his legs grow weak. He finally had the chance to show his prowess in an attempt to protect the town. He shook his head, drew a sword from his coat, and then ran behind the group.
The ran inside the forest, having their weapons aloft.
Heku suddenly stopped. He looked around the tall, great camphor trees within the forest. A green, leafy branch suddenly moved, yet not a single gust of wind penetrated the forest. He lowered his short sword, then threw it at the branch.
A man, losing his balance, slowly came crashing down.
"In the trees!" Heku roared.
Cerise and the others began to look around for any signs of life within the forest. Without warning, several armored warriors descended from the foliage, surrounding the team. Cornered, the four withdrew their weapons. A woman armored in blue and red plating, wearing a red casque, walked into the group, drawing a longs word at Heku.
"Hier findest du nur dein Grab*," She spoke in a condescending tone. "Hekutaa."
"Tch, I hope you do not mean yourself." He snapped back.
"Wait, I know you!" Flins said, mildly enthustic, "You're Minuterie Gaap!"
"Yes, I am." She said triumphantly, waltzing around the group. "Minit Gaap, leader of the "Mirage's Parallel, Lumisade's specialty strike force. Now, enough of the formalities, why would someone like Hekutaa, the infamous assassin who slain our beloved king, be doing in such a little town?"
"Don't you have some sort of war to fight? Or do you squander your already diminishing time questioning a wall?" Heku rebuked, knowing that idle argument wasted the precious time to set up a defensive plan.
"Do not mock me!" Minit roared. "Why are you here?!"
"Do not threaten me!" Heku barked. "I simply want to protect those innocent!"
"Lies! You simply come here to kill us all!"
"What an absolutely perfect idea!" Heku yelled, completely sarcastic in his tone. "Why not utilize such a perfect moment by questioning someone, and then watch some town, and the Kingdom of Lumisade burn down to the ground!"
"How dare you!" Minit snapped, "I'll kill you!"
She rushed straight at Heku, preparing to stab him mercilessly with her sword. He disappeared, then suddenly rematerialized above her, entrapping her and her squadron under pillars of ice.
Count Sanguine began to appear from behind Heku. A malicious red aura began to emanate from Heku.
"I can kill you and your inflated ego for this godforsaken kingdom in a heartbeat!" Heku roared, his voice experiencing a duality of Count Sanguine and himself, "Why not accept my goodwill and live? Or would you rather conform to your ephemeral beliefs, and I, Hekutaa, killer of Lord Siegfried, suddenly experiences a change of heart and desperately defends Roman?"
"Enough!" Minit screamed. "I'll accept your offer! Just let us go!"
The pillars that crushed Minit and her teammates suddenly disappeared. Heku slowly floated to the ground, the image of Count Sanguine disappearing. Minit grabbed Heku by the neck, snarling in blind fury, "You better not double-cross us."
"If I did, you would all be dead." Heku said, still in a sarcastic tone.
She swiftly turned around and signaled her comrades to follow her. Heku and the group did the same thing, running to the town of Roman.
"Mr. Heku," Flins foolishly said. "What just happened?
"The less you know of me, the better, Flins." He replied, retuning to his pensive and emotionless tone.
Flins desired the immense power Heku held. With such strength, he could protect his sister and his family from harm. She would not have to live in constant fear of attack, nor will she ever cry in sorrow again. He felt a sense of curiosity and extreme respect for Heku. He yearned for Heku to trust him, so that he, too, be able to wield such strength.
The group reached the town of Roman, noticing a group of Vesisians closing on the emptied town of Roman. Several combatants armed with rifles entered the emptied houses. Heku, Flins, and others unarmed with long-range weapons stayed along with Minit.
The town seemed like any other village: small, secluded yet somewhat romantic. Vines crept up from the ground, almost covering some of the houses in a lush, green ivy. The village stayed hidden beneath a large forest, except a large tower loomed above the town. It became a military outpost for the Lumisians, subsequently creating an area for commerce and another for living. However, the town remained small, all the while remaining mystical to those traveling to it.
"Do you need any… armaments?" She glared at Heku.
"Me? No." He said.
Heku raised his right arm, whispering "Gesetz , Mißgestalt.**" A brilliant white rapier appeared in Heku's right hand, having an ornate, fleur-de-lis pommel and a hilt. Black and green vines encircled the entirety of the blade, leaving only a small portion of its flat-edged tip to remain unexposed. A black rapier with a simple guard appeared in his left hand, engraved with red markings along the hilt of the blade. A black wing jutted out from Heku's right side, followed by a white wing on the left side of his back. The covered him, then disappeared by shattering into feathers. Heku emerged, completely covered in black vestments. A gigantic, shining white gauntlet covered his left arm, while a black plate covered his torso above a black collared coat. The tail of the coat reached to his legs, being outlined in white. Black greaves had been placed at his legs. His cap and necklace seemed like the only unchanged parts of his armor.
Cerise folded her hands while she lowered her heads, whispering "Come forth." Her hands began to glow a bright red color while a red archaic circle formed underneath her feet. She looked at Heku, who glanced back at her. They both nodded.
"Have you two prepared?" Minit asked, looking at Flins and Shiro with a slightly more benevolent mood.
"Yes, Ms. Minit." Flins said, raising a knife in his left hand and a pistol in his right.
"Prepared." Shiro sighed, showing a blade.
"Be prepared for the worst."
"Understood." They both said.
"Here they come!" A gunman yelled, shooting at the oncoming army.
Heku dashed to the east of the town, while Cerise took the west. Shiro and Flins ran down an alley in Roman, waiting to ambush the soldiers. Minit called several soldiers to her side and took refuge at the front of the town gates.
Bullets zoomed through the cover of the forest. Within moments, the Vesisians charged in, yet Erina did not appear. Instead, she entered through the east, avoiding a large skirmish at the front of the gate.
Erina ran through the eastern gate, looking behind her. Heku ran towards Erina, look behind himself, too. They clumsily ran into each other. Flustered, they look at one another in pure confusion.
"Heku?!" Erina said, both elated and nervous at Heku's presence.
"Erina…" Heku said, pained by seeing her face.
"What are you doing here?" He asked.
"I came to see you."
"Under the visage of an enemy assault? What could possibly warrant such a drastic option?"
"I need to know why you left us a month ago."
"I'm a monster, Erina!" He yelled back, showing her a small circle with mystical symbols on the palm of his armored left hand. His arm began to resonate, releasing glyphs that swirled around his arm. "Look at me! I'm just a danger to everyone around me! That's why I wanted to stay alone, so that no one can be injured by my uncontrollable strength!"
"No!" Erina cried, "You're not some sort of monster! You're still Hekutaa Ranković, my dearest friend!"
"I am Hekutaa Ranković!" He roared, "But not the Heku you once knew! You can remember him with someone full of compassion, gentile and tender."
"Now," He continued, tears beginning to flow from his eyes, "I have the black heart of a demon."
"Shut up!" Erina barked, clenching her rapier. She charged at Heku, slashing wildly at him. Their attacks became a heated exchange of blows, neither of them showing an advantage over one another.
Slash, stab, parry, repulse, slash. Dodge to the left, sweep at the legs. Stab at the head, parry, slash.
Sparks flew from their blades, Erina swift, calm attacks began to transform into heated strikes, each one growing significantly in magnitude.
"Do you want me to beat some sense into you?!" Erina yelled while she continued to attack Heku.
"Yes!" Begged Heku. His attacks remained controlled. He did not strike too often at Erina; only parried. Even under his affliction, he still harbored feelings towards Erina and did not want her injured. Her own perspective, however, gave him little reason to fight. "Kill me if necessary! That will be the only way for me to return to normal!"
The two became entrapped in a deadlock. Heku parried a strike from Erina, yet she did not strike again. Heku, even with his strength, did not repulse Erina.
"Look at yourself, Hekutaa! Out of everyone you know, you're fighting me to the death! You clearly do not belong here! Please, let us just find somewhere… anywhere to get away from here!" Erina pleaded.
"And…? And WHAT?! You mean that you can discern everything about me?! Am I that wrong?!" Heku screamed out, tears of rage and anguish flowing freely down his face.
The swords in his hands begin to emit a grotesque red glow. The blades, augmented by Heku's anger grew. He repulsed Erina, throwing her rapier out of her reach. He began to swing wildly at Erina, his eyes completely blinded by his innumerable fury.
"I cannot possibly make you smile, or even have the slightest feeling towards me! I can't use my power and save this world myself! I'm completely worthless, can't you see?! I cannot possibly do anything right! Nothing! And what gives you the right to question me?! Is it because I cannot conform to your ideals? What the hell makes you think that you can change my mind?!" Heku yelled at the top of his lungs. All of his rage, love, and fury escaped his mind. He felt like he was under some sort of bewitchment, yet he controlled every movement of his body.
His rapiers fell to the ground.
Heku fell to his knees, punching the floor below him.
"You know Erina?" He said, crying, "I truly believe that I live a lost cause. Just kill me now, and just get this over with."
Erina walked to pick up her rapier, tears of anguish flowing from her face. She walked towards Heku, then raised her blade, ready to strike Heku.
He looked up, gazing at her. His eyes seemed full of despair. Did he truly wish to die? After all that he has been though, his life only seemed to cause destruction. Perhaps killing him would ease the world of its problems.
Erina's right hand quivered. She readied her blade, then dropped it. She could not handle the pain of killing her dearest friend. Instead, she mustered up all of her strength and slapped Heku squarely across the face.
"Do… do think that you deserve to die?!" She screamed, her entire body shaking. "If you take someone's life, nay, thousands of souls, do you truly think that killing yourself would make a difference?"
"The past can never be changed, Hekutaa. What matters now will be the path after." Erina said somberly. "You, of all people, taught me that. Now stop wallowing in whatever pit your trapped yourself into and just get a hold of yourself!"
Heku stood up.
Erina held out her hand.
"There's still time to leave. We can go back to Serdin or Außenwelt and live normally once more."
"No, Erina. There is time for you to leave. I promised someone that I will defend Lumisade, or die trying. I intend to keep my promise." Heku spoke, full of sorrow. He began to wipe the tears off Erina's cheeks, making her smile slightly.
"We seem to be between innocence and resolve once again." Erina wryly chuckled. "Just like old times, eh?"
"Yes." Heku said, wiping the tears from his eyes. "Just like old times."
"I-I'll be seeing you." She replied, running back into the forest.
"Yes?" She said, turning around.
"The next time we meet…"
"No holding back. But I won't kill you, Hekutaa Ranković."
"Neither will I, Elanor Fidèle."
*Means "Here you will find nothing but your grave" In German
**Means "Law" and "Deformity," respectively
Surely that's a refreshing read. No less a serious "Minit Gaap", heh~ (Now if only her outfit did show a "dramatic gap"... =w=)
Chapter 6: Reminiscence
Erina disappeared from Heku's sight. She ran through the forest, tears beginning to fall from her face once more. Her heart still felt heavy from Heku's choice to stay in Lumisia. However, a strong feeling of determination rose up from her stomach, beguiling her into persuading Heku once more. Yet her next attempt, she must force Heku into a corner: A corner that will place running away with Erina the lesser of two evils.
Why did she suddenly feel such a strong attachment to Heku? She normally did not harbor such feelings towards him in the first place. She though of Heku as a very friend, and almost like a younger brother because they had such a close relationship. Perhaps she saw a tinge of her deceased father in Heku's personality: Unusually cold, yet very kind. Inhumanly powerful and smart, but gentile and modest.
Nevertheless, Erina continued to run, drying her tears of anguish from her face. She continued to run though the emerald green, forested trail outlining the town. Shots of gunfire echoed though the woods. The firefight sounded worse; Erina needed to rush, unless she wished for more innocent people to die.
She continued to run, seeing Vesisian soldiers clad in their red uniforms. They stopped firing at the sight of Erina, somewhat puzzled by her plight.
"Retreat! Retreat!" She yelled.
The men said nothing, only following her in silent agreement. The warriors, strangely enough, wished to run away from the field of battle instead of fighting with vehemence.
Swiftly, the men retreated from the forested town of Roman. Successfully escaping from the Lumisians, Erina and the other soldiers let out a sigh of relief.
"Where to go from here?" Erina grumbled to herself, still in a stupor of grief. "To Lumisade? Or to Vesisade?"
A train came towards a stop near Erina and her soldiers. Almost unwillingly, Erina boarded the train car, strangely filled with Vesisian troops. She spied Kalech, practically half-asleep, on the same booth that they conversed on before she departed. She sat in front of Kalech, startling him awake. He yawned in mild contentment, asking, "So how'd Heku react?"
She did not reply. Her face was full of despair, stained by her many tears.
Kalech shook his head in resignation. "It's his choice, but he'll come around." He spoke comfortingly.
She smiled wryly. She asked, "So do we assist Nuage and the others?"
"Not today." He replied.
Erina scowled in disgust. "But they might be-"
"Back in Vesisade."
"It's all a plan, Erina: First, we make a quick, taunting sucker punch to Lumisade. In reaction, they will send up a squad -namely Heku- and try to return the favor. When Heku goes along with the plan-"
"He already said no to me once, Kalech. What makes you think that he will concede the next?!" Erina argued. The conversation she had with Heku still replayed in her mind. His tone of voice, the amount of anguish he felt, all replayed in Erina's mind.
"And what gives you the right to question me?! Is it because I cannot conform to your ideals? What the hell makes you think that you can change my mind?!"
She clenched her fists, avoiding eye contact with Kalech. She took a deep breath. She sighed loudly, slumping in her chair. She slowly closed her eyes, comforted by the undulating movements of the train riding to Vesisade.
A dark void suddenly surrounded Erina, then a flash of light shined before her eyes. She found herself in the snowing, empty town of Serdin. She looked at her surroundings, spying a familiar row of houses looking over a seemingly endless, crystal blue sea. A salty breeze accompanied by small crystals of diamond dust wafted Erina's curled, golden hair and her long, silvery skirt. A sense of painful nostalgia shot her heart.
Her father left for war on this day.
"Daddy, please!" A young girl pleaded.
She immediately looked towards the sound of the young girl's cry. Erina froze in fright. It was her as a child, begging her father not to leave for war.
"Now, Eleanor." Her father tenderly said, brushing a tear off the child's face with his thumb. "You mustn't cry. I will only be gone for one month, and then I will be back in time for your birthday."
Erina recognized her father's actions, but in the form of Hekutaa, tenderly brushing tears off her face with the same look of compassion and grief.
"Now be a good girl and keep your mother company. I will be back as soon as possible, and I'll send you a letter the second I arrive!" Her father continued.
"Daddy!" The child cried, embracing her father one last time.
Erina felt her heart shatter. She suddenly understood why she never cared about Heku, and why she suddenly felt such an attachment to him: He seemed like a reincarnation of her father.
The poignant scene in front of Erina suddenly faded away, switching to another heartbreaking scene. Erina appeared in front of a small living room in a small house overlooking the Serdin ocean. A sharp cry echoed from the room. A child ran away from a letter, her mother running to comfort her. Erina walked towards the letter, reading,
"To the family of Albert Fidèle,
We regret to inform you that Albert Fidèle had been killed in the line of battle on December 12th, while valiantly protecting a group of innocent civilians from harm's way. We truly regret Albert's Death. Because of his heroic efforts, he has posthumously risen two ranks and has received the title of "Sirius." His body will be sent back to Serdin, where your family can either cremate or bury his remains.
Our deepest condolences,
General Michael "GM" Phoenix, commanding officer of Albert
P.S. To Miss Eleanor Fidèle, your late father wishes you to have his silver locket. With his dying breath he said to me, "In the locket you will find a note. You will know what to do ""
Erina suddenly jolted up from her seat. That dream… why did she suddenly relive the two saddest days of her life once more? She began to calm down, attempting to piece together her memories.
"Heku really is like father. No wonder I couldn't stand having him around me." She thought to herself.
Following her deceased father's wishes again, she pulled out a shining, sphere-shaped, silver locket from underneath her white blouse. She gazed at her small reflection on the locket, then opened it, exposing a folded note in the center. Erina tenderly opened the note, reading the contents.
"To my dearest daughter," it read. Erina imagined her father read the note to her aloud in her mind, with his soothing, gentile timbre, "If you read this, that means that I have already dies, and good old GM Phoenix told you of my final wish. Do not look upon my death with outrage, but with acceptance. Do not fear, my child. Weep no more, child, for your heartache and loneliness will soon disappear. The darkness will come and the darkness will go. What matters the most will be the one to light the candle in the dark."
Erina folded up the note, thinking of her father while she closed the locket. She imagined a tall, muscular man in a turquoise dress shirt and brown pants. A pair of shining, ocean-colored eyes and a gentile disposition colored his face. His hair, a dazzling shade of blonde, topped his head, arching to his left while it touched his eyebrow.
"The darkness will come and the darkness will go." She muttered under her breath.
"I beg your pardon?" Kalech grunted, waking from another map.
"Nothing." Casually replied Erina. "Just thinking."
"I… see." He replied, somewhat puzzled. "So what happened you’re your old man?"
"I'm sorry." Kalech said, humbled. "I-If it's any consolation-"
"No, it's fine, Kalech. I just remembered something important he once said to me: The darkness will come and the darkness will go."
Erina gazed out the foggy window, smiling in bittersweet reminiscence of the father she never had.
Chapter 7: Liminality
Heku stood, almost like an empty shell, while he saw the last of Erina run away from him. His armor and rapiers dissipated, transforming into feathers that evaporated into the air. Clad in a black, slim frock coat and a pair of slim, beige pants, he soullessly walked down the abandoned town of Roman to rendezvous with Cerise and the others. His heart broken, his mind shattered, and his will to live annihilated, he stopped on a stoned-over path in the middle of Roman. He looked behind him, looking at the ever open gates, then looked ahead of him, spying Flins and Shiro running away from him to report to Minit.
Heku was at a crossroads again; for once, he felt that choosing one path would lead to having one part of his soul broken. If he fled back to Serdin with Erina, his heart would be content with just the two of them together, yet his soul will down in a sea of guilt: a sea populated with the rotting corpses of those in Frostig. In another instance, should Heku follow the path of a righteous soul, he could be a savior to Frostig, but his heart would sooner die of the bitter isolation from the one he loves.
A chill ran up Heku's spine. Seeing how disgusted Erina felt from their fight, he did not peruse after her. He trudged unwillingly towards the disappearing figures of Flins and Shiro, as if his heart had been shot.
"What… did I do…?" Heku asked to himself. "What will I do?"
His stomach rose up while his heart and mind sank. His arms and legs shook in reluctant movement; he wanted to break down in anguish, yet something forced his weary body to move.
He limped past the empty streets, reaching Minit and the others, who talked in minor content.
"Mission… accomplished." Heku croaked, falling to his knees.
"Heku?!"Cerise exclaimed, rushing to his aid. "What happened?!"
He brought his lips closely to Cerise's ear. He whispered what happened.
"I, er- I'll take care of that wound." She said, hiding his true ailment. "For now, why don't you rally up the troops, Ms. Minit?"
"I'll get them. We can head back to Lumisade once Heku's alright." Minit nodded, running to fetch the other troops. She signaled to Shiro and Flins to assist her. Shiro followed alongside Minit, yet Flins did not run off.
Somewhat suspicious of Heku's sudden weakness, he asked, "Mr. Heku, what happened to you?"
"Just a flesh wound, kid. Go and help out your friend; I'll be fine with Cerise."
"Just go!" Heku barked.
"I… alright." Flins said, swiftly running to Shiro and Minit.
Heku grunted in anguish, staring at the stone floor below him.
"Now tell me what happened." Cerise said.
"Erina wished to return to Serdin with her, completely disregarding our task here. I said that I did want any part in her plans, then we began to fight. I nearly killed her in my anger, then I asked her to kill me. Instead, she ran away."
"My soul and heart have two opposing sides. What do I follow?" He said, with growing despair in his voice.
"That's for you to decide." Cerise replied, helping Heku stand.
Heku smiled wryly, then returned to his gloomy soulless disposition.
"You really care about her, don't you?"
"I knew her for six years, Cerise. And I have been entrapped in a bottomless pit of unheard affection six years. My chance to run away with her, my only chance that I could tell her of my innumerable affection, vanished."
He walked away from Cerise. Shiro and Flins, along with several Lumisian soldiers, gathered at the northern gate. Minit approached Heku with a more alacritous step, almost like he had been a dear friend to her.
"Ranković." She said with a sense of benevolence, "Shall we head back to Lumisade? We can discuss your alliance to-"
"Right." He said, disinterested with her offer.
Heku and the others exited the town of Roman, boarding a train for Lumisade.
Heku sat emotionlessly in a booth, leaning on the side like a mannequin. His vacant eyes gazed at the empty pair seats before him, whish soon became occupied by Flins and Shiro. Flins smiled at him, but Heku looked to his right, to Cerise. Heku sighed gloomily, then looked at the puzzled faces of Flins and Shiro.
"I suppose I must explain myself." He said without the slightest hint of emotion.
"No." Shiro replied, knowing well that a person like Heku held several secrets that he did not wish to divulge of easily.
"Yes." Flins said, growing curious about Heku.
"Then I shall," Heku sighed, "but in the guise of an allegory: The Tale of Liminality."
Cerise, Shiro, and Flins leaned towards Heku, all beguiled by Heku's mysterious nature. They all thought that this could explain his enigmatic mind.
"There were once three good friends: Kenneth, a gentile young man, the youngest of the friends, Adelaide, a silent young woman, in the median of the ages, and Clarice, an ambitious woman, the sister to Kenneth and the eldest out of the three."
"One day, Kenneth and Clarice received a mysterious parcel. A letter from their father, who they thought died from influenza twelve years ago. Curious, they told their news to Adelaide, who volunteered to go along with them to meet their 'father,' so that she may request to marry Kenneth. The three followed the return address, which led them to a small mailbox in front of a looming, dark forest. Nevertheless, the friends entered the forest, the shine of day soon transforming into a shadowy dusk below the shadows of the trees. Kenneth and Clarice constantly asked each other if they could recall any of this in their childhood, but neither could not think of any such instance. The three friends walked further into the forest, spying a small lake in the midst of the woods.
"Kenneth stopped. His mind flashed back to a memory, about twelve years ago, when he was at the age of six. A stalky man stood in the shallows of the lake, teaching his son how to fish. The child, however, did not catch any fish, but instead examined a ladybug on the base of a tree.
"His father slapped his son, roaring out, "Fool! You will never be strong if you waste your time!"
"Disturbed by his repressed memory, he caught up with his sister and Adelaide. However, a chill ran down his spine. Why did he forget his father?
"Down the trail, the three stood in front of a faded, monolithic, cerulean-colored rock. To make her friends laugh, in attempt to ease their tense feelings, Adelaide climbed up on the rock, making a pose. The trio laughed in merriment, yet a bittersweet memory flashed before Clarice's eyes.
"She sat on the peak of the rock, knitting a small green scarf for her brother. Kenneth napped near her sister, abruptly waking up when he heard his father's footsteps. Kenneth held onto his sister while Clarice cringed at the mere presence of her father.
"Haunted by her memory, Clarice urged the two to keep moving deeper into the forest. The once shining day above the friends soon turned into a dreary dusk, yet only an hour passed since the trio entered the forest.
"The three rushed deeper into the forest until they reached a clearing. A small house surrounded by dead weeds loomed before them. With nervousness rising in their stomachs, they began to walk towards the abode. Kenneth and Adelaide held each other's hand while Clarice knocked on the mold-covered door. It slowly creaked open, revealing a gigantic, stalky black shadow behind a small dining table.
"'Dad…?' Kenneth spoke, walking in with Adelaide and Clarice.
"The three brought up three chairs and sat in front of the shadowy, looming figure. A small cigarette was in his mouth while he breathed heavily to the rhythm of the creaking, broken-down house. The trio gazed at the interior of the room, spying an ant-infested sink, broken plates, unclean dishes, and a small portrait of Kenneth and Clarice's family twelve years ago: their gargantuan, muscular father in a grey suit sat in a chair with a young Kenneth sat on his leg. Their mother, petite and the polar opposite to their father, stood next to him with Clarice standing next to her.
"'Does… does this disgust you?!' The father roared suddenly. He stood up, throwing his cigarette to the floor. 'Does… does this frighten you?!'
"Neither Kenneth nor Clarice responded to him. Disgruntled, the father sat back in his chair, shaking out an old cigarette from a box. He lit it. Instead of smoking it himself, he offered it to Kenneth, gently asking 'Smoke?'
"Kenneth did not respond verbally, but slowly scooted back in his chair.
"'Smoke!' The father bellowed, 'Or does that disgust you, too?!'
"Kenneth's hand quivered while he reluctantly accepted the cigarette. He gazed at the wispy smoke emanating from the lit tip, then pressed the tip against an ashtray. He stood up from his chair, he glared at his father, and then he walked out of the house in protest with Adelaide. Clarice, however, sat alone, almost petrified.
"Her father rose up once more from his chair, in complete outrage. He used his strength to topple over the small dining table in front of him. His body curled in on itself while he gasped on his callous hands.
"Clarice ran outside the house, but peered though a small crack she left open on the doorway. Tears of anger and despair dripped down her father's face. Nevertheless, she ran to her brother and Adelaide.
"'I… I don't remember him. Do you, Clarice?' Kenneth asked.
"She nodded. 'Yes, Kenneth, he is Father.'
"Kenneth gaped in disbelief. He, unlike his father, had always been kind to everyone he met. Just the mere thought of being the son of a berserk, insane man shattered his mind. Will he end up like his father? Will he end up becoming a hermit in a small cottage to simply isolate his rage?
"Kenneth walked ahead of the group, his eyes wide open. He began to limp in his step, then started to run. Adelaide and Clarice caught to him the moment Clarice grabbed hold of his hand.
"A memory flashed before the sibling's eyes. They suddenly remembered his father. Torn at the death of their mother, their father flew into a blind rage, nearly killing Kenneth in twisted anguish. At the pall of dusk, the two ran away. They did not know where to go, but anywhere from the monster dwelling their father would suffice.
"Now, the story ends there." Heku said abruptly.
"Wait, what?" Flins asked. "There has to be an ending."
"That is the ending. But some storytellers have their own way of ending such an ambiguous story. Some say that Kenneth and the others lived their lives normally without any regards to their father, while others flash to their father's funereal, Kenneth the only one to bring a parting gift, lily at their father's grave." Heku spoke.
"How does that relate to you?" Shiro inquired.
"Maybe it doesn't." Heku cryptically replied. "Perhaps through a different perspective, it does. Yet one must have their eyes open to understand the relationship between this allegory and I."
Nice chapters so far~ (Oh and I spot "GM Phoenix"...)
Amazing writing skillz. o:
Keep up the good work! 8D
Chapter 8: Vindication
Heku and the others sat in the train car, waiting patiently for the train to arrive at Lumisade, yet the train had not yet reached even one inspection checkpoint. The four remained silent ever since Heku finished his story. Flins sat in his chair, his head resting on his hand. He examined Heku, then tried to replay his story in his head. He associated the character of Kenneth with Heku, yet could not decipher the portrayal of Clarice, Adelaide, nor the father. Frustrated with his lack of knowledge of Heku, Flins slowly closed his eyes to think.
He yearned to understand Heku, and to an extent, mirror his extreme strength. His thirst for power came from his sister, who would grow up in an isolated, war-torn land unless someone stopped the war. He couldn't bear letting himself, or anyone close to him, die from such a senseless waste of life.
The two boys fell asleep, at least to Cerise. She nudged Heku, then whispered something in his ear. The only word audible to Flins was the faint echo of the word "Erina." Heku nodded in agreement, then sighed.
"Erina." A name? To Yari Flins, any utterance concerning Heku would beguile him into hours of painstaking research if it allowed him to become stronger. He desired to awaken from his slumber, yet felt consumed by a strange aversion to Heku. He feared that Heku would fly into some unimaginable, apocalyptic rage if he inquired about his personal life. A mixed sensation of forbearance and curiosity encapsulated Flins' mind; To understand a wild beast, one must face its fangs.
Two uneventful hours flew by the group. The train began to slow, heralding the entrance into the fortified walls of Lumisade, the Kingdom of Perennial Snow. The train came to a screeching halt, waking both Flins and Shiro from their slumber.
"Did we make it?" Yawned Flins.
"Yes, I suppose so." Heku nodded with indifference. He looked to his right, noticing Minit standing before them.
"You four must follow me." She spoke, in her prideful and confident tone. "You all have to register at our headquarters.
"I'll no business of the sort." Argued Heku, "Cerise and I, unlike our acquaintances here; We're mercenaries, and as such, will not have any fixated alliance."
Minit scowled. Heku seemed to fill her with an intolerable amount of frustration out of his mentality alone. His mind, to her, appeared like a leaf flowing in some haphazard wind, only flowing in an erratic pattern that does not allow for permanence.
"Fine. But don't expect much payment." Minit growled.
Heku shrugged his shoulders. "If such actions beget such a result, then fine with me." Heku, too, felt vexed by her proud and pompous behavior. Albeit she has attained a high-commanding rank in the Lumisian army, Heku thought that such egotistical behavior acted against one's strength; He recalled the immense amount of annoyance he once experienced at Roman: Minit disregarding an impending doom to the secluded town, and to an extent, the whole kingdom of Lumisade, just to confront him.
"That aside, you'll need a place to recuperate. Just follow me to the fortress." Minit continued, gesturing to the four.
The group stood up and followed Minit out of the train car, along with the small crowd of troops out of the train car.
A chill of bitter reminiscence shook Cerise's spine. She recalled the biting frost of snow over the city, and remembered the destruction she and Heku caused along with it. The city seemed different from the last time Heku and she left, although they both left the city several hours ago. Snow gently fell from the grey clouds above them, while a gentile breeze kicked up the drifting snow.
The small group slowly walked down the empty, seemingly deserted streets of Lumisade. They reached a large, looming, marble-white institution with grey, stone-cut steps. A statue of a man with a large broadsword stood before the group. Heku passed by the statue with bitter anger, muttering "Good thing I killed you." Nevertheless, he continued following Minit into the military headquarters, their clothes lightly covered in a pall of brilliant white snow.
They entered the shining white building, several uniformed individuals in a standard Lumisian regalia consisting of a dark-green petticoat adorned with Lumisian symbols, rushed to Minit. Heku spied at the guards, hiding his face under the shadow of his cap brim.
"Dame Gaap! You have returned!" One man cried in exaltation.
"We have urgent news!" Another continued, "The Vesisians simply fired blank shots, then retreated."
Minit raised her right hand to gesture silence to the men. She smiled in a calm manner, cordially stating, "I shall approach this matter immediately." She looked at Heku and Cerise, pointing at one of them men, commanding, "For now, show these two guests their quarters, then take the young recruits to their examination quarters."
"Understood!" The guards said, standing tall while Minit passed by them.
The two guard whispered to each other, telling one another who to take. They nodded at each other's comments, then stood next to each other. They had their hands behind their back while their legs were stretched apart.
"Come with me to our guest quarters, please." One said.
"Follow me." The other said, "We will need to test your skills."
Flins and Shiro followed one guard to the left of the military institution, while Heku and Cerise followed the other guard to the right of the headquarters.
The floor had been crafted out of a high quality of oak and appeared painstakingly varnished. A loud clacking sound run from beneath Heku's shoes every time he took a step. He stared at his surroundings, disgusted by the lavish spending the Lumisians threw to create a sizable home for their nation's pride in arms. While he mindlessly followed the Lumisian guard, he gazed at a mural of framed plaques and next to it, a monolithic wall with the full-body portraits of previous Lumisian army leaders. He examined one portrait to the far right, seeing Minit in her bright-red casque while a bright-blue coat adorned her body. She seemed to mirror a Napoleonic pose: Her right hand lay comfortably on her sheathed arming sword at her side. A smirk of arrogance escaped her emotion, causing the bile to rise up Heku's stomach in pure contempt. He looked away from the gigantic hall, affixing his gaze at a winding, downward staircase that lead them to the guest quarters.
"A vacant room is at the furthest left door. I trust you can find your way there." The guard said, walking back up the metal staircase.
Heku and Cerise went down the green, velvet-lined hallway of the living quarters, opening the furthest left door, just like the guard told them to.
The room appeared homely, yet completely devoid of sunlight. A small ceiling lamp hung above the pair, while two separate beds stood in the middle, separated by a green lamp. A singular painting of the Lumisian kingdom hung on the walls of the windowless room. Heku and Cerise entered the room, then closed the mahogany, ornate door behind them.
"Now we can talk." Cerise said in her tender, motherly tone.
"What do you want me to divulge to you?" Heku sighed, feeling the immense weight of his guilt pushing down on his conscious. "Erina, my choice to aid the city whose king I killed in cold blood, or that story?"
"I need to understand what happened between you and Erina."
"Right." He said, avoiding eye contact with Cerise in anguish. "If I can recall, I made a pact with Vaughn three years. Those words will never escape me: 'In exchange for your life and emotions, I will grant you immense power to absolve the war. You may reclaim what you have compounded while I take my powers back. You will know when you complete your task.' He said. My own endeavors took precedence, so I used this augmentation to combat Count Sanguine. With that, I simply thought that the war would solve itself"
"That explains very little, Heku."
"You, Erina, and I returned back to Serdin, but I received another pocket watch in the mail. The sender's name was 'Vaughn.' With that , we departed for Frostig once more, then found out that the kingdoms of Frostig changed drastically, for the King of Lumisade obtained a power akin to ours."
"That's why you killed him." She said, trying to complete Heku's thought.
"Yes. I thought that would end the war, but I ended up absorbing his power."
"Then why did you submit yourself to that icy jail cell?"
"That only served to test my hypothesis: The day the frigid jail cell, fueled by my strength, faded, I could then rest knowing that my task would be completed."
"Where does Erina fit into all of this?"
"She wished for me to live alone with her."
"And you didn't?!" Cerise yelled, suddenly outraged. "But I thought you-"
"Loved her? I still do. But she clearly knows that if we simply isolate ourselves from Frostig, the war would eventually hit the modern borders of Serdin, then we would be looking down the barrel of the second Great War; The modern world cannot handle another war of that magnitude, for it has only begun the reparation process. Who knows what will occur after that, especially when the modernized world sees our… our apocalyptic prowess."
"You tear yourself between your morals and your heart." Cerise pointed out, looking at Heku somberly. She passed by Heku, her dark, fiery, slightly wavy hair wafting past Heku's face while she approached the door. She opened the opened, stopping to look back, saying, "If this continues, you will end up like that deranged father of your story, except Erina will not leave a parting gift for her dearest friend."
She closed the door.
Heku looked at the lit lamp above him in deep reflection, asking, "What do I do now…? Erina, Count Larme, Flügellos, Vaughn, Fuerig; Someone answer me!"
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