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Hello everyone, and Happy New Year! May God bless each and every one of you, and may you have a wonderful year to look forward to, with unlimited possibilities! 2017 is going to be a good year, I can feel it! :D

 

So then, with a new year, I’ve decided to post a new story! I’ve had this story on my mind for quite some time now! Heck, I’ve had this story in my mind since I was writing the Keyblade War Trilogy, particularly around the beginning of Chapter III: Beauty Of Apocalypse! Back then, I thought of a cool concept, and then I played around with it, eventually imagining up more characters and an interesting background for them to dwell in, and well, here we are, with my new story! Obviously, it’s a non-KH story, like Seeing The World With Brand New Eyes and A Reason To Fight, which were two stories I wrote that are also not related to Kingdom Hearts! This is an original story, with characters and everything else all created by me, ya know?

 

Anyways, enough talking! Let’s get this show on the road! I hope you’ll all enjoy this new story! :D

 

Prologue: The Messenger

 

                “Where is he?” a voice asked.

 

                A soldier, well clad and with spear in hand, turned around at the sound of the voice, and faced the man asking the question.

 

                “I’m not sure.  He left quite a while ago.” the soldier answered. The other soldier groaned uncomfortably.

 

                “I don’t like this, Kren…he’s been gone for too long now! He was supposed to come back two hours ago!” the other soldier replied.  Kren looked up at the moon thoughtfully, and he gave out a sigh.

 

                “You’re right, Grim. It is kind of puzzling that Nero hasn’t returned…maybe he got delayed?” Kren suggested.  Grim shook his head.

 

                “I think more along the lines of an ambush.  I’ve heard rumor that the Craftsmen have been going on the defensive lately, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they attacked one of our own!” Grim thought aloud.

 

                “Perish the thought! True, the Craftsmen may be aggressive, but accusing them in such a way would be taking things too far…let’s just wait.  I’m sure Nero will be back any moment now!” Kren said, trying to reassure his friend.  Grim hesitated a bit, but then sat down on the ground.

 

                “For both our sakes, let’s hope Nero appears soon…” Grim said.  Kren nodded, but shortly afterwards, they heard a sound!  They both quickly took on their battle stances, with Kren holding his spear tightly and Grim drawing his sword from his sheathe!

 

                “What was that!?” Grim asked.  Kren noticed something moving a little bit north from them, and he pointed towards the trees!

 

                “There! I see it!  Prepare to attack!” Kren commanded, but as they prepared to attack, they saw a young armored man, walking groggily, his armor all shredded and bashed!

 

                “Good graces, it’s Nero!” Grim exclaimed, and he ran quickly towards the weakened Nero!  Kren accompanied him, but kept his spear in hand, just in case there was someone else lurking nearby!

 

                “Good graces, my boy, what happened to you?” Grim asked, holding Nero’s head.  The young man coughed up blood!  He seemed to be fatally injured!

 

                “I…I saw him…I saw him!” Nero gasped, his eyes ablaze with terror!

 

                “Who, Nero? Who!?” Kren asked, looking down at the young man.  Nero shifted his eyes towards Kren, tears forming as he tried to sit up.

 

                “T-the Wraith…he told me…to bear a message…to lady Ilia…” Nero answered.  At that, Nero and Grim looked at each other with great worry. 

 

(Start Song Here)

                “Don’t worry, my friend.  We’ll get you back to Lightbloom posthaste!” Grim said.  But before he could pick up Nero, something came out of the trees and attacked! Luckily, Kren, who had been at the ready, managed to block whatever was attacking them, and flung it back!

 

                “Back away, beast!” Kren shouted!

 

                “We can’t stay here! If Nero remains here any longer, he’ll bleed out to death!  We have to leave now!” Grim exclaimed worriedly!

 

                “I’m on it!” Kren said!  Inspecting the creature closely, he noticed that it was one covered in shadow.  It had flashing red eyes, and bore long, scrawny arms with razor sharp clawed hands! The creature hissed, and Kren felt a bit uneasy!  But then, he closed his eyes and clasped his hands together!

 

                “By the grace of land and grace of life, come to me, and give me protection!” Kren said aloud, and with those words uttered, giant roots rose from the ground, and impaled the dark creature, causing it to shriek in pain!  The creature was pinned to a boulder, the roots keeping it in place!  Confident that the creature was now restrained, Kren looked back at Grim, and then ran to his side!

 

                “Right, the creature is trapped, we have to leave now!” Kren urged!

 

                “Right!” Grim nodded, and with that, he closed his eyes and held his right hand upwards!

 

                “Eluzia!  Come and grant us safe passage!” he shouted!  Within seconds, a creature that resembled a giant wolf, but apparently made completely out of tree wood, came to Grim, and it growled softly, noticing the dark creature’s presence!

 

                “Come on boy, take us to lady Ilia!” Grim commanded as he and Kren mounted Nero and then themselves onto the wolf!  He howled and then started to sprint as fast as he could!

(End Song Here)

 

---

 

(Start Song Here)

                Meanwhile, Ilia, the one whom Nero was to relay the Wraith’s message to, was looking calmly at her garden.  She had a variety of plants and exotic looking flowers.  It looked like paradise, and the flowers gave off an alluring and peaceful essence to the air.  After a busy day, Ilia liked to simply stand there, contemplating her garden and taking in the scent of the flowers.  It brought her peace.  After all, being the leader of the Lifespring Clan was no easy task. Ensuring the prosperity of her people, keeping good relations with neighboring clans, attending to matters that concerned the well being of the world definitely took their toll on her.  And yet, despite all this, Ilia was always a calm and kind person.  Many people respected her.  She was a person that many looked up to.  She appreciated the praise, but thought it unnecessary.  Which is another reason she loved to be in her garden.  She could get away from the noise of people.  She reached out to touch a beautiful looking rose, when she felt someone come into the garden.  She glanced back and sighed.

 

                “What is it, Oracle?  Can’t you see I’m contemplating my flowers?” she asked, ever calmly.

 

                The Oracle, a man who wore a white cloak that concealed his face, simply bowed and crossed his arms.

 

                “Apologies, lady Ilia.  I merely came here to accompany you, as it were.” he stated.

 

                “I see.  Then tell me, what do you wish to discuss?” she asked.  The Oracle simply chuckled and walked to her side.

 

                “My lady, you always see right through me.  Anyways, I know that right now you are enjoying your private time, but there is something of importance to discuss…” he started.

 

                “Yes?  What is it?” she asked.

 

                “It concerns tomorrow’s meeting.  The heads of the clans will be there, as usual, but I’ve heard rumor from  our Everbloom Knights that tension will probably ride high.  Particularly when it comes to the Scorched Clan.” the Oracle explained.  Ilia looked at one of her plants and sighed.

               

                “I see…well, I’ll be sure to be ready.  In any case, I will do my best to keep the peace in the council room.” she said, as she turned to the Oracle.

(End Song Here)

 

(Start Song Here)

                “Indeed.  Let’s hope tomorrow goes by without—“ the Oracle began to say, when the doors to Ilia’s garden smashed open!  Through them, Kren and Grim came, carrying a bloodied Nero!  Ilia’s eyes opened wide and she quickly went to Nero’s side, while the Oracle remained where he was.  She knelt beside Nero, while Kren and Grim knelt across from her.

 

                “What is the meaning of this!?” she demanded!

 

                “My lady, Nero came to us like this…he said something about a message from the Wraith!” Kren explained!  At that, Ilia’s expression grew worrisome, and she looked at Nero.

 

                “What is it, boy?  What message could possibly be so vile as to leave you in this condition?” she asked.  Nero, coughing up blood, struggled to lift himself up.  But when he did, he went towards Ilia’s ear and told her what he could.  Kren and Grim didn’t know what was being said, but they knew it was something bad.  The look on Ilia’s face alone guaranteed it!

 

                “The Wraith…? Hmm, what troublesome times indeed.  The Council will have a hoot tomorrow…” the Oracle mumbled to himself.

(End Song Here)

 

------------------------------------------

 

What is this mysterious message that Nero needed to deliver to Ilia? Who is this Wraith? What troubles lie ahead? Is all this an ill omen of things to come?  Stay tuned for Chapter One: “A Troublesome Affair!”

 

So yeah, that was the prologue! I hope that you all enjoyed it!  So then, as is customary with my stories, this story will be fifty chapters long! I hope you’ll enjoy what I have in store, I promise it’ll be good! I’d tell you more about the story, but I don’t want to spoil, so I’ll just let the chapters speak for themselves! The first chapter alone will have a bit of insight on the state of things!  So anyways, I’ll appreciate your support! Thanks for reading, and until next time, stay tuned for the next chapter! :D

Edited by The Transcendent Key

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To KHLegendIII, yeah, well, I had intended to announce this new story back in December, but I just decided to keep it all under wraps till now! Hope you'll enjoy it! :D

 

To Sarrin, thanks, I'm glad you liked it! I'll definitely keep going, you can count on that! :D

 

Hey there everyone, I hope that you’ve all had a fine evening! So then, here’s the first chapter of Afterworld, and I hope you’ll all get cozy and dive into this journey along with me! Without further ado, let’s begin! :D

 

Chapter One: A Troublesome Affair

 

                Vincent was not happy.  In fact, he was in a really bad mood!  Today was one of those days when he didn’t want to go to a gathering of the clans. Yes, it was necessary to have continued contact with the other clans, but that didn’t mean that he had to like it.  Normally, he’d just listen to whatever the other clan heads were talking about, and he would weigh in his opinion on the state of things.  But one thing in particular that always got his fire burning was talking about his people.  He cared deeply for the well being of his people.

 

                Vincent was an averaged statured man, with short, light brown hair and light tan skin.  He bore a goatee, and he had his usual getup on.  A long sleeved jacket with a furred collar, and black pants, along with light brown shoes. He had silvery eyes and a cold stare that would startle most people. In fact, many people were intimidated by him.  After all, he was the leader of the Scorched Clan.  An important clan with an important job…but not one that he necessarily approved of.

 

                Sighing, he looked to one of his soldiers, a Scorched Infantryman, clad in red and silver armor, and he shook his head.

 

                “I really don’t wanna be here today…” he sighed.

 

                “I know…” the soldier replied.  “But duty calls when duty calls, after all.”

 

                “Hmph, duty…” Vincent mumbled.

 

                And so, he and the soldier walked along a stone path, as they headed towards the complex where the clan meetings were held.  This place was called The Sanctum.  It was situated at the very center of the world, and it served as a neutral ground, where all the clans came to discuss matters regarding the world and relations between clans.  It was meant to be a symbol of peace, a symbol of hope for all to witness.  Vincent didn’t think highly about this place,  mostly for the fact that the meetings held here were more like political disputes than anything else, but he respected what The Sanctum stood for, in any case.  Even if others did not.

 

                As they continued to walk, they came upon a giant archway with two pillars, smooth to the touch, probably made of some precious stone. A white stone at that!  After passing through this archway, they walked up a set of stairs until they reached the Sanctum itself!  The complex in and of itself wasn’t something of grand splendor.  A testament to its simplicity.  It was a moderately sized building, built by the Craftsmen.  Evidence to this was apparent in the fact that the building was etched into a mountain, and so, it’s exterior and interior was completely carved from the mountain it rested in.  Vincent then stopped for a moment. The soldier, noticing that Vincent had stopped, turned around and tilted his head.

 

                “Sir?  What is it?” the soldier asked.  Vincent seemed to have a focused look on his face, but he definitely heard the soldier’s question.

 

                “Nothing in particular.  Just taking a look at that banner up there.” he answered.  The soldier proceeded to look at the banner as well. It was red, and at the center, there was a symbol.  Two white lines intersecting to each other, then curving towards the top and forming what seemed to be a sword.  The soldier then looked at Vincent.

 

                “You mean the Sanctum’s banner?” he asked.  Vincent nodded.

 

                “Yeah…supposed to represent a shining beacon of light for the world…hmph, total bullshit if you ask me…” he shrugged.  “Anyways, let’s go inside…”

 

                “Yes, right away sir!” the soldier complied, as the two of them went into the entrance.

 

                Once inside, they noticed that everyone seemed to be in an uproar!  This caught Vincent by surprise, since normally, things were rather calm here.  Everyone was talking aloud, and Vincent couldn’t discern what the people were saying, since everyone was talking at once!  He looked at the soldier, and the soldier only shrugged.  Vincent then went towards one of the Sanctum guards, clad in golden armor, and put his hand on his shoulder.

 

                “Hey, you there. What’s all the commotion about?” Vincent asked.  The Sanctum guard immediately recognized Vincent, and then he pointed towards the conference room.

 

                “Lord Vincent, it’s best that you go into the conference room.  You’ll get your answers there.” the guard said.  Vincent’s soldier then walked up to him and nodded.

 

                “Go, Vincent.  It seems that it’s something urgent.” the soldier urged. 

 

                “Right…I’ll see you later then, Seth.” Vincent said, as he then ascended a small flight of stairs to enter the conference room.

 

(Start Song Here)

                Once inside, he saw that the other clan heads had worried expressions on their faces.  They were all silent, and when Ilia saw Vincent come in, the other clan leaders turned to face him as well.  Apparently, they had been waiting for him to come before discussing anything else.  Vincent quietly made his way towards his seat, and as he sat, he crossed his arms and looked at the clan leaders.  He was currently sitting across from Eros, the leader of the Craftsmen Clan.  He wasn’t human at all.  He was a sort of humanoid being, with the exception that he was completely made of stone.  The rugged features on his face made him look particularly bulky, and his menacing yellow eyes didn’t help matters, making him look quite ferocious.  Eros didn’t seem all too pleased to be in the conference room, Vincent thought, but he decided to say nothing.  He then looked at Saphira, the leader of the Stormtracer Clan.  She had long, silver hair that was tied up in a long ponytail which trailed down her shoulder and towards her chest.  Her sky blue eyes were looking at her thumbs, as she was twiddling them in anxiety.  She definitely had a heavy air of nervousness about her.  And at last, Vincent turned to Ilia.  She bore her long, red hair on her shoulders, and her face indicated that she hadn’t slept at all.  Her emerald green eyes looked lifeless, and her shoulders were slumped.  The Oracle, the man in the cloak who was always by Ilia’s side, stood behind her, with his usual white cloak concealing him.  The four clan leaders remained silent for a bit.  The table they were gathered upon even seemed cold!  After a few more moments, Vincent drew a long breath.

 

                “So…I take it that something major has happened?” he asked.  Eros grunted.

 

                “More than major, hothead…it’s dire…” the Craftsmen leader answered.

 

                “Well, then what is it?” Vincent asked again, looking at Ilia.  She slowly lifted her gaze to meet with Vincent’s eyes, and she heaved a heavy sigh.

 

                “Last night, one of my soldiers, Nero, came to me critically injured, bearing an ill message…from the Wraith…” Ilia answered.  At that, Vincent seemed to freeze! Now he understood the dire situation, just by mention of that name!

 

                “And what was the message…?” Vincent asked.  Ilia clasped her hands together and shook her head.

 

                “Darkness will be cast over the world…and it will envelop the world and bring it to its untimely end…and we can do nothing to stop it from happening.” she answered.  “The Wraith said that the balance has been broken…”

 

                Upon hearing that sentence, Vincent’s eye twitched, and he clenched his fist.

 

                “You can bet your ass it’s broken…now I understand…” Vincent said through gritted teeth.

 

                “What’s that supposed to mean!?” Eros exclaimed!  Vincent then blazingly stood up from his seat and slammed his hands on the table!

 

                “It’s what I keep telling you all every meeting!  I have told you all time and again to help me find a way to get my people out of the hell we’re living in!  We Scorched live to die!” Vincent shouted!

 

                “But you bring light to this world!” Eros exclaimed, trying to counter Vincent’s position.

 

                “You say it because you don’t know what it’s like for us!  Yes, we bring light to the world, but at what cost!?  Being branded a Scorch isn’t a blessing!  It’s a curse!  We bring light to the world, only to die because of the flames we bear within us!  It comes to the point that the flame eats us alive!  That isn’t life!  It’s a death sentence!  A death sentence I’ve had to deal with every day with my people!” Vincent argued, as he mentioned the facts.  “I’ve pleaded again and again for all of you to assist me in helping my people break free from this curse, but you all do nothing!  You know what?  I say it’s good that the Wraith sent this message!  Maybe the world falling to darkness is what we all need!  It’ll make you open your eyes to your ignorance!”

 

                “Why, you little…” Eros growled, but then Saphira raised her hand.

 

                “Stop it, you two!  Arguing will get us nowhere!” she proclaimed!  Eros and Vincent remained shut, and silence fell over the room again.

 

                “The balance has indeed been broken, and it seems that we are to receive judgment by this darkness…but Vincent, you have to understand, your people are necessary!  Without you all, the world would be dead!” Saphira spoke, trying to make the situation less ugly.  It only served to anger Vincent more.

 

                “And that’s just it…you treat us like we’re your fuel…that we aren’t alive…that we’re nothing but your tools…and I’m sick of it!” Vincent growled!

 

                “Vincent, please…” Ilia said, trying to calm him down.  She was only met with a fierce glare.

 

                “What?  It’s not like I’m not speaking the truth!  But since the rest of you can actually have lives, you don’t feel ridden with the thought of having to know that your life is cut short by a burden that you didn’t want to have!” he said, shaking his head in contempt.

 

                “Vincent, I hold all life in regard, and believe me when I say that I grieve for your people! I know that the struggles they face are very real, and I know that you all live under constant pain! Don’t you think I know the suffering you go through!?” Ilia snapped, as she stood up in defiance, meeting with Vincent’s angry eyes.  The two stared at each other for what seemed to be hours, when the Oracle interfered, putting his arms in between them.

 

                “Now, now, this is not the time to bicker amongst ourselves…true, the situation at hand is indeed dire, and true, Vincent’s people do have unfair regulations set upon them…but we need to be with a clear head.  Only with unity can we solve the problem plaguing our world!” the Oracle said, trying to smooth things out.  Vincent simply scoffed and sat back down, and Ilia sat as well.

 

                “Vincent, we’ll find a way to ensure that your people don’t have to suffer, but remember that things go on equal footing! We need the light you provide to sustain our world!  Not to mention that the darkness coming needs to be held back, even more so reason to have your support with the power of your people’s light!” Eros said, quite bluntly!

 

                “Eros…” Saphira scowled.  He raised his arms up in question.

 

                “What? It’s true! Their light is vital to life on our world!  If it isn’t because of them, our world would be covered in darkness!” Eros explained.  Vincent only shook his head, stood up, and then head towards the door.

 

                “Vincent, please, don’t leave!” Ilia urged.  Vincent glared at her before heading out the door.

 

                “No, I’m not going to take this bullshit anymore…I’m going to find a way to save my people, and I’m going to do it without your help.  I suggest you all stay out of my way!” he growled as he slammed the door behind him.

 

                “Oh dear…I better go check on him…” the Oracle muttered as he trailed behind an angry Vincent.  As he went out the door, Ilia glared at Eros and Saphira, and she put her hands on her face distressingly.

 

                “This was not handled well…” Ilia commented.

 

                “Well hey, it’s not my fault that hothead has a short temper! He knew from the start what his role was, and he should have accepted it long ago!” Eros argued!

 

                “But Eros, that was very insensitive.  The Scorched are living beings, just like any of us!” Saphira replied.

 

                “Heh, you should talk! May I quote: ‘Without you all, the world would be dead!’ Sounds to me that you were just as insensitive, Saphira.” Eros barked back.  Saphira had to hold her tongue, for Eros was right.

 

                “Well, it seems as though we won’t be able to do anything about it now.  When Vincent makes up his mind, he goes along with whatever he has planned.  But he’s also very unpredictable, so this could prove to be yet another problem…” Ilia mentioned as she rubbed her temples.

 

                “I don’t know how we’re going to go about this, Ilia, but we better think of a solution to this problem as soon as possible! We don’t want people panicking! We need to have this taken care of immediately!” Eros suggested.

 

                “I know…but Eros…we are cruel. We know how Vincent feels about his people bearing the mark of the Scorched, and yet we always treat his matters as insignificant, and I hate that…” Ilia said, guilt all over her face.

 

                “It can’t be helped, Ilia.  When the world adapted after the Calamity, we who survived gained these powers.  We gained the powers to make of this world what we could of it.  And what we did was attempt to rebuild what we lost.  The Scorched bring light to the world with their fire.  Your people bring flora and fauna to the barren wastelands. Eros’s people build the cities upon which all of our people live, and my people monitor the tidings of the world, ensuring that there’s no plague or storm that ravages our people!  We all have a designated role to play, each with its own price to pay.  The Scorched pay their price with their lives…I know this is a grim reality, but Vincent knows of this.  He has to know this is the way things are.  They can’t be changed. He has to accept his role, as we all have ours!” Saphira expressed.  Ilia clasped her hands together and looked at Eros and Saphira grimly.

 

                “Nothing can change?  That’s a narrow train of thought…and it’s thinking like that which has brought down civilizations…” Ilia said, as silence now loomed over the room.

(End Song Here)

 

                At that same moment, Vincent had already stormed out of the Sanctum with Seth, and he was heading down the hill, storming with rage!  Seth was following him and trying to ask what was wrong, but Vincent was fixated on his rage.  He didn’t want to listen to anyone right now!

 

                “Sir!  Sir, just what the hell happened in there?” Seth asked again.

 

                “Let’s just go back home…I need to clear my head…” Vincent fumed, the very sight of him as if he was about to erupt like a volcano!  Seth then understood and nodded.

 

                “Y-yes sir, my apologies, sir!” he mentioned.  Vincent gave out a deep sigh and waved his hand dismissively.

 

                “No, it’s alright.  I’m just angry, is all…” Vincent said apologetically.

 

                “So, you intend to do things your own way, eh?” a voice said behind them.  Vincent quickly turned around with a startle, forming a sphere of flame in his hand as he turned around, only to notice that it was the Oracle who was speaking to them.  The Oracle raised his hands casually.

 

                “Careful where you aim that flame, Vincent. Your situation in particular isn’t a pleasant one!” he stated.  Vincent scoffed and snuffed out the flame he had created.

 

                “What’s it to you? Aren’t you supposed to be by Ilia’s side?” Vincent asked.  The Oracle chuckled.

 

                “True, but that doesn’t mean that I’m her lapdog.  Anyways, you are determined to find a way to save your people, even without the help of the other clan leaders, eh?” the Oracle asked.  Vincent looked towards the horizon facing away from the Sanctum, and he clenched his hands into fists.

 

                “I’m sick of the way things are.  My people are suffering a burden they don’t deserve.  I can’t accept the state of things! I can’t just tell my people that their destiny is to die!  I can’t face them like this…not anymore…” he said as he looked to the ground, disheartened.  Seth looked down grimly, and said nothing.

 

                “Well, you seem determined enough.  If that’s your call, then it’s best that you get a move on before the other clan leaders try to stop you.” the Oracle mentioned.

 

                “Hmph, so you’ve come to warn me?” Vincent asked.  The Oracle shook his head.

 

                “On the contrary.  A few words of advice!  If you’re going to venture on this attempt to free your people, I suggest that you prepare your Infantrymen in the event of anything or anyone trying to come and get in your way.  Let nothing stop you from saving your people!” the Oracle replied.  Vincent stared at the Oracle momentarily, and then a look of determination crossed over his face.

 

                “I won’t let anyone stand in my way…come on Seth, let’s go back to Pyros.” Vincent said, as he walked down the hill.

 

                “Yes, right away, sir…” Seth answered as he followed him.  The Oracle watched them walk down the hill, and remained there for a while.  He then looked at the sky, and he put his hands behind his back.

 

                “Hmm…one thing leads to another.  How curious, a person’s mind is…” the Oracle muttered to himself as he saw the clouds rolling by slowly.

 

                Meanwhile, in a port that overlooked the sea, quite a crowd was moving back and forth.  They were all rushing towards the docks, waiting for their transportation to arrive!  All types of people, from rich aristocrats to hard-working people were rushing back and forth.  The crowd was quite noisy.  In the middle of this crowd, a young woman, probably in her mid twenties, was standing near a set of barrels, no doubt with the day’s catch of fish!  The smell was clear as day!  She ran her hands through her face and sighed.  This woman was short in stature, over five feet, perhaps! She was tan skinned, had purple eyes and raven black hair, and she wore standard traveler’s clothes.  A loose, emerald colored blouse, semi-tight black pants and a brown leather backpack strapped to her back.  She looked at the sky as the sun hit her face.  She put her hand up to her face to cover herself from the sun’s rays, and then she looked back at the crowd of people.  She was growing impatient!

 

                “This is growing rather tedious…” she thought to herself. She even started to tap her foot on the wooden floor, heaving out an irritated sigh.  When she looked to her right, she noticed that some heavily clad soldiers were roaming about.  The woman quickly averted herself away from their sight and squeezed herself through a few people!  She casually glanced back, and noticed that the soldiers were still there, and apparently they were asking the surrounding people some questions.

 

(Start Song Here)

                “This is not good…” she thought to herself, as she started to get anxious!  She looked around to see if there was any route she could take that could help her escape!  The only option in front of her was the sea, but jumping in would cause too much of a ruckus, so that was out of the question, and running through the crowd of people would only cause a scene.  The woman was now getting even more anxious, and she saw the soldiers get closer!

 

                “Not good…not good!” she thought to herself, now getting desperate!

 

                Then she looked at her hand.  No, it’s best not to risk it, she thought.  She just shook her head and closed her hand into a fist and took a deep breath.  She glanced back once more and saw the soldiers now heading towards the crowd she was in.  She definitely wasn’t going to cause a scene, so she just decided to blend in as best as she could.

 

                “When will that damn Koran appear!?” the woman thought, now furious!  Just then, she heard a loud bell ring, and then, a humanoid looking bird flew above the crowd of people, holding its bell.

 

                “The Koran is now here.  Prepare for boarding, I repeat, prepare for boarding!” the humanoid bird shouted!  Everyone then took a step back, and within seconds, the water at the dock started to splash violently!  The dock itself seemed as though it would break!  A loud rumbling noise was heard, followed by what seemed to be a deep growl!  A few seconds later, a giant gray whale looking creature with a large complex on its back rose from the sea, as it let out a mighty roar!

 

                “Well, it’s about time! Koran’s can sometimes take so long!” a random person said.  The woman smiled.

 

                “Yeah, but at least this one pulled through!” she said, and once the drawbridge leading to the Koran’s complex lowered, the stampede of people began to pour into the complex!  The woman took advantage of this situation and immediately zipped into the crowd, avoiding detection by the soldiers at port!  She kept walking until she made it onto the Koran!  After all the passengers boarded, the drawbridge lifted, and the Koran began its trek through the sea, leaving the port behind.  The woman looked back and she sighed of relief.

 

                “Well, that’s a relief…” she thought to herself.

 

                “Zaria Horosha, you are under arrest!” a loud voice rang!  The woman froze, and then she slowly turned around! To her shock, she saw a young blonde man, with green eyes and a steely look of determination on his face, heavily armored and with sword in hand, addressing her, right then and there! The passengers all looked at Zaria alarmingly and began to mutter amongst themselves!

 

                “Damn it…just when I’d thought I had made a smooth getaway…” she thought to herself.

 

                “In the name of the Phoenix Knights, I hereby put you under arrest!” the young man shouted once again, to be sure he made himself clear!  Zaria sighed.

 

                “This is just great…”

(End Song Here)

----------------------------------------

 

The world is threatened to be cast into darkness, and the clans are at a disarray! Vincent, in anger of the inconsideration on his people, storms off to find a way to save the ones he cares for the most! What will happen? And who is this Zaria, being hunted down by the law?  Will she be able to escape the Phoenix Knight?  Find out in Chapter Two: “Tricky Negotiations!”

 

Well everyone, that was the first chapter! I hope you all enjoyed it!  I’m really excited to see how this story turns out, so let me know what you all think of it! I’ll appreciate the feedback! Thank you for your support, and until next time, stay tuned for the next chapter! :D

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To KHLegendIII, thanks, I'm glad you liked it!  And yeah, Vincent has it rough. You'll see more of him as the story progresses along! :3

 

Good evening everyone, I hope that you’ve all been doing okay! So then, here’s the second chapter of Afterworld! I hope I’ve immersed you into this whole new world! It’s my hope that you’ll all enjoy this story, for I know that I’m very excited to keep on writing it!  Anyways, without further ado, here’s the next chapter! :D

 

Chapter Two: Tricky Negotiations

 

                Everyone on deck was alarmed by the scene before them!  Zaria Horosha, apparently wanted by the Phoenix Knights, stood right at the center of the deck, as she slowly stepped backward as the Phoenix Knight tried to get close!  Everyone wondered what made Zaria a wanted woman! They certainly didn’t notice her until just now, and she didn’t seem like the kind of woman that would cause trouble for anyone.  But, appearances deceived, they all thought, so they merely stood there, watching as the Phoenix Knight, with sword in hand, attempted to get closer to Zaria.

 

                “There’s no escape now!  Even if you jump into the sea, you won’t be able to escape my reach!” the knight proclaimed!  Zaria cursed under her breath and looked down at the floor for a moment before meeting the knight’s gaze.

 

                “And just what makes you think that I’ll jump into the sea?  I don’t have to do that to escape from you!” she shouted!  The Phoenix Knight scoffed.

 

                “Hmph, nonsense!  Enough of your foolishness!  Come with me now, or suffer the consequences!” the knight threatened.  Zaria thought that she might not have any other choice than to give herself up! She certainly wasn’t going to cause a ruckus that would endanger the people onboard! She wasn’t going to attempt to escape, either, for like the knight said, even if she jumped into the sea, she’d be found!  She sighed and then put her arms forward, wrists extended, as she prepared to surrender herself!  The Knight then took out handcuffs from his pocket and strapped them onto Zaria.

 

                “You made a wise decision.  For complying, I’ll make sure that the judge shortens your prison sentence!” the knight said.  Zaria just shook her head.

 

                “Let’s just get this over with already…” she muttered, as her head hung low.  The knight grabbed her by the arm and then cleared his throat.

 

                “Everyone, please make way!” he declared. Surely enough, the passengers stood aside to let Zaria and the knight pass.  As they went through the crowd of people, they neared towards the drawbridge, and from there, the sky darkened! Everyone looked up, and they saw a giant creature with radiant wings!  They gleamed with a bright, vivid orange, and the winged creature had a majestic aura! This, as the namesake of the Phoenix Knights, were the mythical creatures they used to patrol the land and attack enemies!  The phoenix lowered itself to the point that it was just about to touch the water’s surface!  On the phoenix’s back was another knight, saddled on and controlling the reins of the phoenix! Zaria sighed.

 

                “Well sir, you’ve done it now…you’ve caught me…” she said.

 

                “Yes, I, Felix, the Phoenix Knight, have successfully brought you into custody without having to cause a scene! Now then, let’s get going, Buford!” Felix said as he looked at the mounted knight.  As they got on, Buford raised the reins, and the phoenix took off and flew high up into the sky, leaving the Koran behind!

 

                “To the caverns, Buford! We need to stock up on supplies!” Felix mentioned.

 

                “Got it, boss!” Buford replied, as he charted their course! Zaria was infuriated the whole way!

 

                The only good thing about her predicament now was that she was riding on the back of a phoenix! She had never experienced this before, and looking down on the sea below, everything seemed to miniscule and insignificant!  She could see as the Koran turned into a tiny speck the further away they flew!  At least she could enjoy the view, even if the journey she was taking wasn’t exactly a most enjoyable one!  She didn’t want to talk to Felix, so she just remained silent the whole way.

 

                After a while, they passed through a sea of clouds, high above the land, and then they started to come upon a mountain range, where many mountain peaks reached such heights that they could pierce the sky if they were able!  As they approached this mountain range, Buford pulled on the reins so that the phoenix could go down.  As it plummeted all of a sudden, it flew towards a vast network of mountains, until they reached what Zaria assumed were the caverns that Felix mentioned earlier!  The phoenix landed at the entrance of one of these caverns, and then it ruffled its feathers and stretched its legs, as Buford, Felix and Zaria got off of it!  Zaria saw that many other knights were walking around and about, and a wide area to her right housed a generous space for the phoenix and its brethren to rest and eat. To her left, she saw tents that were pitched, campfires that were lit, and knights sitting around, eating and drinking and laughing.

 

                “So, this is one of their various camp sites, huh?” she thought to herself.  She was zoomed out of her train of thought when Felix grabbed her by her arm.

 

                “You don’t have to hold on so tightly…it’s not like I’m going anywhere…” Zaria complained, but Felix looked at her with an untrusting expression.

 

                “Of course Zaria, you who have been running from the Phoenix Knights, and you say you won’t go anywhere! I can’t let you out of my sight for one minute!” Felix said, causing Zaria to roll her eyes. “Anyways, after we stock up on supplies, we’ll see what fate will befall you!”

 

                This only served to make Zaria that much more eager to escape.  But if she tried that now, she knew that she wouldn’t get anywhere.  With all the Phoenix Knights scattered about, and with her not knowing the layout of the mountain range surrounding them, all she could do was play along until the opportunity to escape would present itself.  So Zaria simply sat down on the ground, while Felix and Buford looked for food and medical supplies to take with them.  After a few minutes, they were all set, and then, they took Zaria once again and mounted their phoenix.  They were prepared to take their leave once again.

 

                “Great…” Zaria thought.  As she felt the wind pick up due to the phoenix flapping its wings to begin flight, she felt an ominous feeling!  She couldn’t explain why, but she felt as if they were being watched!  She didn’t say anything though, and opted to remain silent.  After Felix and Buford bid farewell to their comrades, they departed from the camp, and now they were flying above the mountain range towards the sky!  Once high enough, the phoenix soared through the air at a breakneck pace!  Once again, Zaria was able to witness the majestic beauty of the skies, but this time, she felt uneasy.  That ominous feeling she felt just moments ago came at her again, and she couldn’t help but feel that this time, she had to tell Felix!

 

                “Look, I know that I’m your prisoner and all, but I feel as if something is watching us…I sense an ominous presence…” she stated.  Felix looked at her and frowned.

 

                “Of course there is.  You’d say anything to try to make your way out of messes, huh?” Felix asked. Zaria looked at him infuriatingly!

 

                “I’m serious!  Something’s not right!” she stated again!  Felix sighed and looked at the clouds.

 

                “Just keep quiet.  Soon, you’ll be taken care of!  So enjoy the scenery while you can!” he replied.  Zaria frowned.

 

                “Pfft, I figured he wouldn’t listen to me…” she thought to herself.  So she just decided to close her eyes and let her frustration out slowly.  Breathing in and breathing out always was a good way to keep herself calm!  But then, suddenly…

 

                “What’s that, Felix?” Buford asked.

 

                “What do you mean?” Felix asked.  Buford pointed in front of them.

 

                “Over there!” he said.  And true enough, something was coming their way!

 

(Start Song Here)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5AqDD9cz1G4

                “What in the—“ Felix began to say, but his words were cut short, for it resulted that dark, crackling lightning bolts pierced by them, making the phoenix jolt in panic!  Buford tried to keep the phoenix under control, but when the dark lightning bolts struck again, they hit the phoenix, causing it to wail in pain as it started plummeting downward from the skies!  Buford was desperately trying to control the creature, while Felix tried to see who was casting these lightning bolts!  But it was to no avail, as a third strike caused them to disperse, and now all of them were falling downward!  Zaria, desperate to free herself of her handcuffs, was finding difficulty in releasing herself from her restraints!  She could feel the wind whistling on her ears, and as she looked left and right, she saw Buford and Felix falling down helplessly!  She then saw the phoenix just above her, and it looked as though it had been fatally injured!

 

                “Come on, I can’t die here!” she thought to herself through gritted teeth! “I hate when I have bad feelings…”

 

                Before she could attempt anything else, Zaria saw a dark lightning bolt heading straight towards her!  In an instant, everything went black!

(End Song Here)

 

                It wasn’t until much, much later that Zaria found herself gaining consciousness! She could still feel her hands restrained, which irritated her greatly!  As she groggily tried to sit up, she noticed that she didn’t feel any fatal pain!  Not even broken bones!  When her vision cleared, she noticed that she was on what seemed to be the seashore!  She then slowly stood up, and she stretched her limbs to ensure they weren’t broken!  She then looked around and saw that the surrounding area was unfamiliar to her.  She looked to the sea and sighed of relief.

 

                “Water can really be a lifesaver.” she said.  She then looked around, and then remembered that Felix, Buford and the phoenix had fallen from the sky as well!  She wondered where they had fallen, or even if they were still alive!  She wandered the seashore for a good while, and she noticed that there was no one to be seen.  Then she took a moment to stop and admire the scenery surrounding her.

 

                A clear, beautiful seashore with pearl white sand, with rocks that were smooth to the touch!  The water that lead to the sea was crystal clear, to the point you could see fishes swimming in the water!  Giant, lush palm trees and neat patches of grass dotted the seashore, and she saw that behind her, a vast forest awaited.  She then saw on the horizon what seemed to be another island, far off, but she couldn’t tell due to the distance and because of the sun facing  in her direction.  She sighed and looked up at the sky.

 

                “I wonder if things looked this peaceful back before the world was destroyed…” she thought aloud.  Suddenly, she heard a twig snap!  She immediately ran towards a large boulder and hid behind it!  She remained silent to see if there was anyone or anything around, and when she didn’t hear nothing, she still remained silent!  A few seconds later, she heard grunting, familiar grunting!

 

(Start Song Here)

                “Felix?” she thought to herself.  She then climbed up the boulder carefully and peeked her head over it, and she noticed that strange, tree-like humanoids were dragging Felix and an unconscious Buford along the ground!  The phoenix was nowhere to be seen!

 

                “Unhand me, creatures! I am a Phoenix Knight, and I won’t be trodden down like this!” Felix exclaimed! “Unhand me and my friend!”

 

                The tree creatures looked at each other puzzlingly and seemed to be discussing in hushed tones in an incomprehensible language on what to do with the Phoenix Knights!  Zaria counted about at least twelve of them.  And they all looked strong.

 

                “Now’s my chance to get away…” she thought, and she slowly climbed down the boulder and then quietly started to walk away.  She was already a good distance off, when she suddenly stopped herself.  She gritted her teeth and hated her subconscious right about now!  “This is no time to be thinking about others, Zaria! Move on and let those knights rot!” she thought to herself.  She tried to be on her way again, but she found herself stopping anew!  She lowered her head and gave an annoyed sigh.

 

                “Damn it, why do I have to feel bad for people…?” she mumbled to herself as she marched in the direction of the tree-like humanoids!

 

                She had now arrived where she had last seen them, and apparently, they were still there! They were now surrounding Felix and Buford, and they were all talking to each other.  It seemed their discussion still hadn’t ended! The funny thing here was that Felix was shouting his lungs off, and the tree-like humanoids paid him no mind!  Zaria then closed her eyes and rubbed her chin.

 

                “Now Zaria, you have to be smart about this.  You’ve never encountered these kinds of beings before, so you don’t know if they’re hostile or not…you have to play this smart.” she thought to herself as she tried formulating a plan.  “I think I’ve heard of these creatures before…Sentients, I think they were called…hmm, how will I take care of them?” she asked herself.  She didn’t have a weapon, so fighting was out of the question.  She figured that she might just have to show herself to them and try to appeal to their better nature!

 

                “Well, I have no other bright ideas, so I might as well show myself.” she thought.  She then took a deep breath, and within a second, she walked through the bushes until she bumped into one of the Sentients!  The creature turned around slowly and saw her, and she gulped at the sight of it.  It was definitely much fiercer looking up close!  The Sentient then spoke something that Zaria didn’t understand, and the other Sentients turned to face her.  Felix noticed her there, and his eyes opened wide!

 

                “You!  You’re here as well!” he shouted!  Zaria frowned.

 

                “You’re welcome, ingrate! I’m trying to save your skin! You and your buddy’s!” she pointed out, to which Felix then fell silent.  She then turned her attention to the Sentients again, and she gulped as she saw all of them gazing at her, as if expecting something from her!

 

                “Okay…what the hell should I do now…?” Zaria asked to herself.  She didn’t know how to communicate with the Sentients, so she would have to guess what to do by gut instinct.  She then proceeded to make hand gestures, and then body gestures, trying to see if any of this would strike a chord with any of the Sentients.  But they were stone faced and unamused.  Distressed, Zaria tried to think of something else!  She then snapped her fingers and thought of something!

 

                “I have something that you might like!” she stated, as she searched her pocket for something.  Surely enough, the Sentients looked at her pocket, and they mumbled to each other in curious tones.  Apparently, they were interested!  She then took out what looked to be an orb.  It was colored pink, and it radiated brightly in tune with the sun!  The Sentients seemed to have been absorbed by the orb’s beauty, for they gathered around it like moths to a flame!

 

                “I can’t believe this is working!” Felix thought to himself as he saw Zaria handling the creatures!  Buford soon woke up from unconsciousness and shook his head.

 

                “Ugh, my head’s blazing…what happened?” he asked.  Felix pointed his head towards the direction Zaria was.

 

                “It seems our prisoner is handling these creatures that abducted us.  I’m hoping she succeeds in making them go away!” he whispered.  They looked onward quietly as they saw Zaria slowly stepping back and placing the orb on the ground, prompting the creatures to pick it up and analyze it.  They certainly liked its shape and glow, and they definitely seemed to want it!  They then looked at Zaria, who pointed at the Phoenix Knights.  She gestured with her hands to let them go. 

 

                “I want them in exchange for the orb!” she said! It seemed to take a bit for the words to patch through, but apparently, the Sentients understood, and then they let Felix and Buford go, and then they walked away peacefully towards the forest!  Zaria sighed of relief and rubbed her head.

(End Song Here)

 

                “Well, it cost me an orb, but at least I got this mess settled.” she commented as she walked towards them.

 

                “D-don’t think that we’ll repay the favor you did by letting you go free! You are our prisoner, after all!” Buford stated, to which Zaria sighed.

 

                “Well, I think that if I hadn’t just gone and did what I did there, you two might’ve been tree food. So I think that you two are in my debt!” she said, as a smirk then crossed her face.  Buford was about to object, when Felix raised his hand.  He calmly stood up and faced Zaria, and Buford was looking back and forth between them.

 

                “Sir, you realize we can’t let her go, right?” he asked.  Felix closed his eyes and then smiled.

 

                “Well Buford, we did get assailed by an unseen force, and it did seem to be powerful.  We were separated, and we lost our prisoner, and we tried looking for her, but assumed that the sea took her.  I think that’d make for a decent report, now wouldn’t it? We certainly look battered up enough to make this report legit!” Felix explained as he pointed out that their armor was slightly battered and bruised.  Zaria smiled in surprise, for she didn’t expect this outcome!

 

                “Huh, and here I thought you’d take me back…” she said.  Felix then bore a serious face.

 

                “Make no mistake, Zaria. We’re letting you go this time.  But if I see you again, I will not hesitate to arrest you.  So think of this as a free, get out of jail pass.” he stated.  Zaria smirked and then closed her eyes and shook her head.

 

                “Aw, so that means I can’t see your darling face again?  That’s a shame.  But, I won’t pass up on this offer!  …Thanks.” she said as she bowed sincerely and then took her leave.  Buford was flabbergasted, and he only stared at Felix, who just chuckled.

 

                “Well, what can I say?  She’s a beautiful woman.  She may have weakened me.” he said as he raised his arms sarcastically.  They then heard their phoenix calling out to them, as it was to their right, atop a large boulder near the sea!

 

                “Well, that’s our ride!  Looks like the phoenix didn’t get too badly hurt!  Come on, let’s go!” Felix urged, as he ran towards the phoenix.  Buford sighed and rubbed his head.

 

                “Geez, what a mess this has been…” he commented, as he then followed Felix.

 

                Meanwhile, Zaria continued to run, as fast as her legs would carry her!  She felt a blazing wind running through her as she ran, and she ran along the shore, loving the way the water caressed her feet.  She then stopped when she came upon a cliff!  She looked towards the sea, as it radiated a dark, majestic blue!  She breathed in the air, and she looked to the sky.  She then gave out a sigh.

 

                “Geez, this isn’t the way I planned things out.  Now it’ll take me a bit longer to reach Eternia Glade….but oh well, I can make this work.” she thought to herself, as she closed her hands into fists. “I can make a fresh start…”

 

---

 

(Start Song Here)

                Elsewhere, a cloaked man was walking through a path in a vast expanse of grass.  The man had nothing but his cloak and a traveling bag that he carried on his back.  It seemed as though he had been traveling for a long time.  He looked at the sun set, and then decided to stop and set up camp.  He decided he would pitch his tent under a giant tree that he spotted a little ways away from him.  And so, he set the traveling back on the ground and opened it, and from it, he took out a small square.  With a push of a button, the square turned into a wider rectangle, and then he folded out the joints of the square until he pulled the tent out from this neat little storage device!  He then set up the tent right beside the tree.  He saw that the sky was free of clouds.  It would be a star studded night, the man thought.  And it wasn’t all that cold, so he didn’t think that a campfire would be necessary.  Lest it would attract unwanted attention…

 

                A few hours later, and the sun had already set, and the man was sitting just outside his tent, looking up at the millions upon millions of stars that dotted the night sky.  He ran his hand through his pocket and then took out from it a small pocket watch.  It was colored silver, and it felt smooth, with little bumps from the carving it bore.  He liked holding his pocket watch.  He liked the sound of its small chain rattling.  Then, he sighed and glanced over his shoulder.

 

                “Looks like a man can’t get a moment of peace, eh?” the man asked sarcastically.  Then, a creeping, oozing noise emanated behind him, and from the shadows of the tree he was camping under, he could see a pair of gleaming silver eyes staring at him.

 

                “It’s going to happen now.  We must make our move.  We’ve been waiting for a chance like this…” the voice said, sounding like that of a woman’s.

 

                “True, the world is going to change again soon, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy myself a nice, peaceful, quiet night before everything goes to hell, now can’t I?” the man asked.  The woman felt irritated, and she waved her hand menacingly at the man.

 

                “Don’t you dare show incompetence, Beriel.  You may be one of us, but that doesn’t mean that you can have the luxury of fooling around! Time is of the essence!” the woman urged!

 

                “Look, I understand, okay?  I’ve been traveling for a few days now, already getting a head start.  Don’t get your panties in a bunch…” Beriel replied, with a hint of annoyance in his voice.

 

                “The clan leaders are now disputing on how to deal with the problem of the Wraith.  They won’t agree peacefully to anything, so we can take this time, catch them off their guard, and ensure that things work in our favor…” the woman explained.

 

                “Yeah, no, I get that.  Say…would you like to join me and look at the stars? It’s a beautiful night!” Beriel said, patting his hand on the ground for the woman to sit. She only growled in irritation and turned to look at the sky.

 

                “You better not take too long, you ingrate…” the woman said, as she disappeared into the shadows.  Beriel chuckled and shook his head.

 

                “Now, Lucilda, there’s no need to be so hasty.  Everything will fall in place in due time.  You have to learn patience…” he said to himself, as he then went inside his tent to sleep.

(End Song Here)

 

---

 

                Ilia was in her bedroom, and she was looking at the ceiling.  Her hair was all loose, and she was in her sleeping garments.  She had a long and dreadful day.  Dealing with the problem of the Wraith was something that definitely had her stressed.  She thought about how this situation could be approached, and how it could be resolved without having too many casualties mixed into the whole mess.  Her thoughts then turned to Vincent.  It did pain her that his people suffered a terrible fate.  But, as Saphira had stated, it was a fate that they were bestowed upon when the world changed.  Even if she wanted to change things, she knew that this was beyond her control.  Knowing that she couldn’t do anything only served to make her even more depressed!  She heard a knock on her door, and then she sat up on her bed and put her hands together.

 

                “Come in!” she shouted.  As the door opened, the Oracle came in, and he bowed respectfully.

 

                “Forgive me for coming to you in your bedroom, my lady, but I just wanted to check on you, to see if you were doing well.” he said, as he pulled up a chair and sat beside Ilia’s bed.  Ilia sighed and looked at the Oracle before looking at the ceiling again.

 

                “Well, I can’t say that I’m fine, that’s for sure.  And here I thought that things were going so well…but at the same time, I knew that something like this would happen eventually.  There’s too much injustice in this world, and there’s so many people like Vincent who have to bear cruel fates…it’s just something that definitely gets to me, as a person who wants to help…” she expressed, rubbing her forehead.

 

                “I see.  Well, my lady, it’s perfectly natural for you to feel the way you’re feeling.  In your shoes, I’d feel the same.  But remember, you represent the country of Eternia Glade, and as such, you are our headstrong leader.  The Everbloom Knights, everyone looks up to you.  I know that you’re going through strife at the moment, but know that you have your people’s support.  Whenever it gets rough, we’ll help you through the rough patches.” the Oracle expressed.  Ilia looked at him and smiled.

 

                “Thank you, Oracle.  You always know just what to say.  I’m definitely lucky to have someone so wise and caring by my side!” she said.  The Oracle bowed his head.

 

                “Please, my lady, it’s nothing.  I’m just looking out for you!” he said as he smiled.  Ilia sighed.

 

                “Well, tomorrow’s a new day, and I really should get some sleep…whatever problems come, I’ll handle them as best as I can.” she said as she tucked herself in her blanket.  The Oracle stood up from the chair and gave a respectful bow.

 

                “Of course, you be sure to rest as much as you can.  Good night, my lady.” he said.

               

                “Good night, Oracle.” Ilia said, as the Oracle left her room and closed the door behind him.  Ilia looked up at the ceiling, but this time, she felt slightly better.  Somehow, someway, she’d find a way to make sure that things would turn out okay.  That thought made her feel at peace, and as the seconds passed, she could feel herself getting drowsy!  Before she knew it, she was already sound asleep!

 

                The Oracle, after leaving Ilia’s room, walked along the hallway of her residence, and then stopped when he neared a large, glass window.  He then walked towards it and looked through it, noticing the moon was high up above the sky.  He put his hands behind his back and he closed his eyes.

 

                “Everything changes with time.  It’s good that Ilia is ready to face that change head on…I wonder how this will all turn out?” he thought to himself, as he remained staring at the moon for a while longer.

 

--------------------------------------

 

And so, Zaria is free, and she now goes to wherever the wind takes her!  And as the new reality facing the world dawns, Ilia must be prepared for whatever comes next!  But what of Vincent? How will he handle the situation at hand?  Find out in Chapter Three: “Home.”

 

Well everyone, that was chapter two! I hope I’m pulling you into this story with the world I’m trying to build!  I’m still keeping details rather vague, since I want all of you to ask to yourselves what possibly happened to the world to leave it in the state it’s in now! I hope you’ll keep following me on this journey, and I hope you all keep enjoying it! Thank you all very much for your comments and support, and as always, please be sure to leave your thoughts on what you thought of tonight’s chapter!  Well then, until next time, stay tuned for the next one! :D

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To KHLegendIII, thanks, I'm glad you liked it! :D

 

To Sarrin, thank you, I'm glad that you're reading my story as well! I'll definitely keep the chapters coming! :D

 

To Keyblade101, thanks man, I'm glad you started reading my story! You've also been one of my longtime followers here! :3

 

Good evening everyone, I hope that you’ve all been doing okay!  So then, here’s another chapter of the story, in which we’ll take a closer look at Vincent’s life!  I hope you enjoy it! :D

 

Chapter Three: Home

 

(Start Song Here)

                About two days later, Vincent and Seth arrived to their home country of Pyros.  It wasn’t exactly the most hospitable looking place to live, but it was their home. They made the most out of what they had.  Vincent taught his people that in order to survive, one had to adapt to the surrounding environment, to grow along with it.  He ensured that everyone would get behind this principle, and luckily enough, he found that his advice had paid off, for all of his people were accustomed to the environment.  Vincent stopped near a big wooden sign that said Ember Town.  He looked at the volcanic land, the ashen plains, and then he looked at Seth.

 

                “Sir?” Seth asked, noticing that Vincent seemed to be in a daze.

 

                “Look at this place, Seth.  Tell me, what do you see?” Vincent asked.  Seth took a moment to let Vincent’s question sink in, and then he looked at Ember Town.

               

                “I see a small town.  Not too small, but not too big, either.  The entire town is situated in a safe plot of land where there’s no fire underneath, and the rock hard floor is perfect for settlements, of which there are many here.  I see houses, I see shops, merchants, travelers from around the world taking a look at our wares.  I see our people, though tired, but doing their best to get by.  They treat everyone with a smile, even if they’re suffering inside.  They press on…as you taught us, sir.” Seth said as he answered Vincent’s question.  Vincent smiled and put his hand on Seth’s shoulder.

 

                “Yeah…but you know what I see?” he asked.  Seth tilted his head.

 

                “What, sir?” he asked.  Vincent took a deep breath and then put his hands in his pockets.

 

                “I see a people with much potential.  A people with a desire to live and to see what lies beyond their lives.  They want to reach their maximum potential, but they live in fear.  They live in fear because of the power with which they are born.  Yes, it’s useful, as it provides light, fire, the necessity of life.  But what’s it worth if it’s at the cost of our own lives?  Our people are strong, that I know, but I also know that they want to know something more beyond their limited existence.  They want to be more, they want to feel more…they want to be free of their burden…I’ve seen this all for too many years and haven’t done a damn thing to change things.  Talking to the clan heads never solves anything, and no matter what I do, it’s never enough!  I haven’t been able to do anything to make our people thrive as I know they could…I’m your leader, Seth…but I’m terrified.” Vincent said, as he looked at the sky, covered in smoke from Mt. Terios, the volcano that ruled over the country of Pyros.  Seth remained silent.

 

                “And now that this darkness is coming upon the world…now that this “balance” has been broken, I’ve decided that I’m sick of how things are.  I don’t care how, but I know that I’ll find a way to free our people from the curse of being a Scorched! Whoever figured that we should have this power will rue the day that I was ever born…because I’ll find a way to ensure that our people can live to see tomorrow!” Vincent declared defiantly!  Seth clenched his fists, and he could honestly feel the sincerity behind Vincent’s words, and they touched him deeply.

 

                “Sir…I…I don’t know what to say…” Seth stuttered.  Vincent put his hand on Seth’s shoulder anew.

 

                “For now, it’s best that we don’t say anything.  I’m planning on changing things, but I don’t want our people to panic.  They’ve already got enough trouble in their minds as is.  I don’t want to make them feel any more stressed.  After all, some people would consider what I’m going to do as waging war…” Vincent expressed.

 

                “War, sir?” Seth asked.  Vincent nodded, as he summoned a small speck of flame by snapping his fingers.

 

                “Unfortunately, that’s how the other clan heads will probably deduce it.  I’ve wanted to make change peacefully, but peace won’t cut it.  I have to send a clear message to the clan heads.  They need to understand that my people can’t suffer anymore…and to that end, we’ll probably be considered enemies of the world.  It’s sad, really.  I understand if this is too much for you, Seth. I know that you have a family, and I know that you don’t like conflict all that much, so if you want to back out, I won’t hold it against you.” Vincent said, but was surprised when he saw the glare that Seth gave him!

 

                “Are you kidding me…?  You think that I’m going to back down!?  Sir, I love my family, and if you’re offering a chance of being able to free us from being Scorched, then my family and I can know long and happy days!  I want to be able to tell my kids that they’ll get to have a wonderful future!  I want to look into my wife’s eyes and say to her that we can get through this!  And to that end sir…” Seth said as he knelt on one knee and put his hand on his chest. “I will follow you till the end!”

 

                Vincent smiled.

 

                “You truly have a fiery resolve, Seth.  Thank you.  Now then, go to your family.  They’re probably anxious to see you.  We’ll take more later.” Vincent said. Seth nodded and bowed respectfully.

 

                “Of course.  See you then, sir!” Seth said, as he then entered Ember Town and proceeded to walk up a small hill towards his home.  Vincent stood there for a few more minutes before heading into town himself!

 

                As he walked through the town, everyone smiled and waved hello at him.  Children that were playing around stopped and huddled up toward Vincent and all hugged him, giving him an enthusiastic welcome!  Elderly people nodded at him and tipped their hats to him, and the shop owners and everyone else treated him as a triumphant hero! Vincent never understood why he had this much praise.  He wasn’t really anyone special.  Or at least, that’s what he thought.  You see, Vincent, though hot-headed and ill tempered, was a very caring person.  He had a kind heart, which he showed most to his people.  He showed them that he had genuine concern for them and their troubles.  He’s the kind of leader that would just sit at the plaza, talk to anyone, do anything, really. Many people sat with him to tell them of their lives, of the trials they had to endure, of the dreams they had.  Listening to them was of utmost importance to him.  He let everyone know that their dreams mattered, that their hopes were precious.  Even though he deemed his kind acts as simple gestures, to his people, those acts meant more than anything in the world!  So even if Vincent didn’t understand the praise he would always receive, his people knew why he had so much love and support.  And so he waved hello at everyone, and then headed to his house, which was situated on a hill that overlooked Ember Town, and had a pretty wide range of his territory.  He then sat down on the porch and looked at the sky, which was now crimson, the sun trying to pierce its rays through the smoked clouds.

 

                “How am I going to go about this…?” he asked to himself.  “I know what I have to do, and I know that this will eventually become a fight…but I don’t want anyone to die.  But I guess that’s foolish…because a battle without loss is impossible.”

 

                Vincent sighed and looked at the sky, as if it could offer the answer that he wanted.  He knew that it didn’t do anything, but he didn’t know what else to do at the moment.  Slowly, he began to fall asleep.  The two day journey from the Sanctum to Pyros was a bit exhausting, and he and Seth hadn’t rested.  And so, Vincent thought that maybe it’d do him some good to rest.  But as he tried to stand up, he found that he couldn’t get off of the floor! And so, he kept trying to stand until he eventually fell asleep on the porch.

(End Song Here)

 

                “The world…”

 

                “Huh…?” Vincent asked, as he struggled to open his eyes.

 

                “…of everything. The…to all.”

 

                “What?” Vincent wondered, as he kept hearing these strange, far off, distorted voices!  He slowly tried to open his eyes, and when he did, he found that he was floating in darkness!  He immediately opened his eyes wide and panicked momentarily!

 

                “W-what is this!?” he reacted, as he found that he was floating in pitch black darkness! He looked left and right, but didn’t see anything or anyone!  “What is this madness!?”

 

                “Everything…nothing.”

 

                “Death…”

 

                All of a sudden, Vincent felt an intense and agonizing pain course through his body, as if it was splitting him apart! He screamed and felt suffocated, and he could see the darkness around him enveloping him!  He was now starting to breathe rapidly, fear settling into his skin!  He struggled and lashed out and desperately tried to keep the darkness at bay, but it choked him with a  strong grip!  Before he could gasp for breath, he woke up!

 

                By the time he opened his eyes, it was already dark! Night had fallen, and the lights from Ember Town’s houses and shops lit up the darkness! The volcanic flame from Mt. Terios lit in the distance, and the sky, which was dark by nature, was now pitch black dark.  Vincent clenched his fists and cursed under his breath.  He then noticed that he was a short distance away from his porch!  That nightmare he just had must have made him squirm all the way outside!

 

                “What…the hell…was that?” he asked aloud!

 

(Start Song Here)

                “A premonition, perhaps?” a voice rang in the darkness!  Vincent’s eyes blazed open and he summoned forth flaming spheres in both of his hands, searing with powerful light!  He quickly turned around to see a cloaked man sitting on a chair in his porch!

 

                “Who the hell are you!?” Vincent demanded!  The cloaked man raised his hand calmly.

 

                “It’s a beautiful night, isn’t it?” the cloaked man asked.  Vincent’s hands twitched a bit, and he went forward to attack the stranger, but then he found that his fire was snuffed out! It took a few moments for Vincent to notice this, but when he did, he immediately leapt back on the defensive!

 

                “W-what? How did you do that!?” Vincent asked, dumbfounded and cautious!

 

                “Did what? Turn off your flames?  Simple.  A wave of my hand, really.” the cloaked man said as he then stood up and walked towards Vincent.

 

                “Who are you, and how did you get here?” Vincent asked, a menacing growl emanating from him. The cloaked man sighed.

 

                “It seems that I can’t get to talk to you without some hostility involved, eh?  Please, believe me when I say that I come bearing no ill will or harm. If I would’ve wanted that, I would have simply killed you while you were thrashing around in your sleep.” the cloaked man answered.  Vincent then remained silent.  He did have a point.  So he then relaxed a bit, but still remained cautious.

 

                “Hmm, I take it you’ll remain hostile, even if I don’t do anything.  Hmm…well, anyways, I’m someone who’s been watching you for quite some time! You’ve been toiling and struggling all these years, doing what you can to raise your people from the ashes of their destiny.  It’s quite admirable, but I must say, futile. The fate that you and your people bear is most unfortunate.” the cloaked man said as he put his hands behind his back.

 

                “Hmph…you say it like you understand…you say it like you know what I’m going through…” Vincent said as he scoffed.  The cloaked man then took off his hood, revealing an old man’s face.  Well, not too terribly old, but not young, either.  He had a warm smile, and he had silver hair and a beard  He had steely gray eyes that pierced through the darkness, and he looked at Vincent with understanding.

 

                “Well, that’s because I actually can relate.  I was a Scorched too.” the old man said.  At that, Vincent’s eyes opened wide, and as he heard those final words, he could feel the words repeating themselves over and over in his mind.  It’s as if the words were dangling over his head, and he couldn’t reach them!

 

                “What did you say?” Vincent asked, trying to make sense of what was going on.

 

                “I said that I used to be a Scorched, too. Meaning that I freed myself of that power.” the old man said.  Vincent couldn’t believe what the man was saying, and he even shook a little! Could what this man say be possibly true?

 

                “But…it’s impossible!  No one can change their fate like that!  How is it that this is even possible? How did you free yourself from being a Scorched?” Vincent asked, dumbfounded!

 

                “Well, I did the same thing that you’re planning to do.  Only, instead of doing it for the Scorched, I did it only for myself. And I did it by my means!” the old man answered.

 

                “But…how? And why didn’t you help the Scorched be free of their burden?” Vincent asked.  The old man looked up at the dark sky and smiled.

 

                “Well, I was a young lad back then.  I was brash, I was wild, I was reckless.  And at the time, I was advised against trying to defy my fate.  But I went ahead and did so anyway. To show that I could prove everyone wrong. That I could change the way things worked!  And after seeking for my answers, I found them.  And now that I see what you’re trying to do, I figured that I would come to lend my aid…” the old man explained.

 

                “…How do I know you aren’t an enemy…a spy from another country, sent to keep an eye on me?” Vincent asked, cautious anew, his eyes glaring into the old man’s!

 

                “Well, I can assure you that I am no spy.  I’m merely what you would call…a traveler! Beriel is the name!” the old man said, introducing himself.

 

                “Beriel…do you truly know the way to free my people from this burden…?” Vincent asked hesitatingly.

 

                “Yes…although, it could differ how you approach it than how I did it back then. But yes, it is possible to remove the curse of the Scorched from your people.  If you’re willing to accept my help, that is.” Beriel answered, as he then outstretched his hand towards Vincent, as a sign of good will.  Vincent wanted to take his hand, and he wanted to believe Beriel’s words.  But then…how could he do this to his people? How could he entrust their lives to this stranger that he had just met? He hesitated, and then he looked away.

 

                “I’m sorry…but I need to think about this…” Vincent decided.  Beriel then nodded and simply put his hood back on and turned to walk away.

 

                “That’s alright, don’t feel distraught! I understand. In your shoes, I wouldn’t trust a stranger that would offer something like this, either.  Take your time.  But remember to keep the lives of your people at your utmost priority.  Have a good night, my boy.” Beriel said as he then proceeded to walk away into the darkness.  Vincent remained there, looking at the old man as he disappeared, and he remained there a while longer, contemplating on the words that the old man had told him.  He didn’t know what to think!

(End Song Here)

 

                “I just don’t know…what to do.” Vincent whispered to himself, and then he slowly made his way to his house.  Once on the porch, he glanced over his shoulder again, and he stood there, thinking on Beriel’s words.  He wanted to believe that this man knew how to save his people, but he couldn’t trust the man.  He just couldn’t!  And so, after a few more minutes, he opened the door to his house, and then went inside to get some sleep.

 

                The following morning, the sun was high above the sky, and it seemed as though its rays were so strong, that they had actually managed to pierce through the smoke clouds that covered Pyros!  One of these rays went through a window in Vincent’s bedroom. He could feel that small ray tickling his skin, and soon enough, he awoke.  He sat up on his bed and rubbed his face and gave out a heavy sigh.  He then looked at his room and felt his body a bit stiff.  His room wasn’t anything too fancy, but it wasn’t anything too shabby either.  A comfortable bed, a desk nearby, a shelf with books, some chests here and there and a small area for working out comprised the layout of his bedroom.  As he stood up, he walked towards one of his chests and took a sleeveless white shirt and put it on him, along with some brown leather pants.  The day promised to be one full of heat, so he would at least try to have an apparel that wouldn’t make him feel stuffy.  He then proceeded to brush his teeth and get some breakfast in. Some scrambled eggs and toast would suffice.  He would shower after going for his morning stroll and workout. And so, he went about his business, and he ate his breakfast, then let it settle down well before strolling through town and then proceeding to work out in a small area he had found where there were no people.  He then went home and lifted some weights and did some push ups, along with other routines, and then took a shower.

 

                After everything was said and done, he looked in his chest for a gray, sleeveless shirt and some black leather pants, and then, he went to town.  A spot he’d frequent would be the local bar. The bartender always greeted him with a nice smile.  She was an alluring woman.  Fiery red hair, yellow, sparkly eyes, and a form and fit body that would make any man go crazy. And yet, for her allure, she was too sweet for her own good! Vincent liked hanging around the bartender.  She always managed to make his day!  Soon enough, the bartender noticed Vincent’s presence, and she happily made her way to him!

 

                “Hey there Vincent, I see that you’re up and about!” the bartender greeted.

 

                “Well Audrey, I just wanted to drop by and say hi.  And I…uh, well, I have a lot on my mind…” Vincent said.  Another thing that Vincent liked about visiting Audrey was that she was a very approachable and trustworthy person.  She knew a great many things about his dealings and his personal struggles, and whenever he felt tired or distraught by something, he’d always turn to Audrey, for she always had something to say that would brighten his mood.

 

                “So, the fact that you aren’t asking me for a drink means that this is serious.” Audrey said, her face growing serious as she then pulled up a stool and sat beside Vincent, her arms placed on the bar as she fiddled with an empty wine glass.  “So, what’s bothering you?”

 

                “It’s…complicated…you know how I’m always trying to improve things around here?” he asked. Audrey nodded, urging him to continue.

 

                “Well, don’t tell anyone, but…I’m planning on changing things.  I don’t know how…but I’m going to find a way to get rid of our Scorched curse.” he said.  Audrey looked around, making sure no one was listening in on their conversation, and then she crossed her arms.

 

                “Are you sure about this?  You know that this won’t sit well with the other clan heads.  Even though they understand our position, they still need us…and as long as we provide light to them, we’re a necessary element in this whole machinery work…” she said, weighing in her opinion.

 

                “Yeah…I know.  Someone visited me last night.  A strange old man, saying that he had been a Scorched before, but that he freed himself from the curse.  I didn’t know whether to believe him or not. I couldn’t trust him just like that…” Vincent said, as he clasped his hands together and looked at them thoughtfully.  “He told me he could help me get rid of the power of the Scorched…he offered me his hand…but I turned him down.”

 

                “Well Vincent, all of us trust your judgment, and the fact that you didn’t take this mysterious man’s offer is a sign that you’re cautious, which is a good thing. I appreciate that, and I’m sure everyone else would.  Strangers aren’t to be trusted all that quickly…so you did a good thing. Did the old man say anything else?” she asked.  Vincent shook his head.

 

                “No…after I denied him, he only said that he understood my situation, and that I should take my time to think things through.  He then left and disappeared.  I felt eerie for the rest of the night…and well, it’s been bothering me ever since.” he said.  Audrey then propped herself up from the stool to the bar, and she swung her thick, smooth legs as she looked up at the ceiling thoughtfully.

 

                “Well, the only thing left to do now is to keep moving forward.  As long as you do that, there’s nothing that can keep you down for too long!  Let me guess, no one else besides me and a select few know of your plans, right?” she asked.  Vincent nodded.

 

                “Yes.  I don’t want to let our people know about this yet.  It would cause too much panic and uncertainty.  I want to make sure that things are laid down accordingly.  If conflict can be avoided, then that’s good.  But if we have to fight…then we’ll make sure no one stands in our way.” Vincent declared, confident in tone!  Audrey closed her eyes and smiled.

 

                “Well, you’ve got my support!  You just go and do your thing!  Make sure you let the world know that we Scorched deserve to live just as much as anyone else!” she said with an enthusiastic smile.  Vincent chuckled and gave her a smile as well.

 

                “Yeah…so anyways, about that drink…” he trailed off.  Audrey rolled her eyes and laughed.

 

                “And here I thought you were taking things sober for once!  Haha, I’ll get you the usual, sweetheart!” she said, as she went into the bar to look for Vincent’s favorite drink.

 

                After about an hour, Vincent left the bar, and then he continued walking along town.  He talked with some people along the way, and he stopped by the shops to talk to the shop owners and ask them about their well being.  He then proceeded to go outside of Ember Town and made his way to an upward slope.  After a few minutes, he arrived at a wide, lengthy flat terrain.  The Barren Plains.  Nothing but ash and charcoal dotted this field, and no life at all grew.  Vincent walked through this wide terrain, looking upward, as he saw the sun attempting to break through the smoke clouds.  He knew the sun would never shine down completely.  At least not here.  After walking enough distance, he stopped, and then he slowly put himself in a fighting pose.  He took a deep breath and swayed his arms to the right, and then thrust them forward with sudden force!  A spark of flame emanated from that thrust!  He then delivered a jab, an uppercut, and then a high kick, with streaks of flame following each attack!  He then punched the ground, and small pebbles jutted out of the ground due to the force of impact his punch made! Small bits of fire crackled along the ground, and then he stood and took a deep breath, relaxing his body.

 

                He then outstretched himself in a fighting pose, and he drew a deep breath.  After exhaling, he proceeded to perform a series of quick punches and kicks, with fiery flames crackling every time he launched a punch or a kick!  It went to the point that he delivered a low swoop that delivered a wide arc of fire that wooshed throughout the plains!  He then clenched his hand into a fist, and he looked at it with determination!

 

                “I will save you all…I will break this curse off from us…I swear it on my life!” he thought to himself, and then, he clutched his chest, for he felt a burning sensation inside him. “I won’t let this fire eat us from the inside out…” he thought to himself, as he felt slightly weak!  Then, he glanced over his shoulder, and noticed Seth coming along.  He turned around as his friend approached closer, and he waved at him.  Seth arrived and stood a few feet away from him.

 

                “So sir, I see that you decided to hone your skills today?” he asked.  Vincent nodded.

 

                “Yeah…thought I could warm up a bit.  And I wanted to let go of some steam before I think of what to do.” he answered as he then walked towards Seth and placed his hand upon his shoulder.

 

                “So we’re going through with it, sir?  We’re going to find a way to get rid of our Scorched powers? What’s the plan?” he asked.  Vincent looked at him silently before answering.

 

                “Gather a few more men.  I’ll explain it all once we’ve gathered.” Vincent said, as he looked to Mt. Terios, as it billowed out smoke from its maw!

 

                “Our salvation is now…”

 

--------------------------------------------------------------

 

And so, Vincent pushes on with undeniable resolve, and he, along with Seth, are ready to do what they’re able in order to free themselves and their people from the curse of being branded a Scorched! What will happen next?  Stay tuned for Chapter Four: “Enemies!”

 

Okay, that was chapter three! I do hope it was to your liking!  I hope you enjoyed that little insight into Vincent’s personality, and how he feels and thinks about his people, ya know?  Thank you all very much for your continued support and patience, and as always, let me know what you thought about tonight’s chapter!  Well then, until next time, folks! :D

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To KHLegendIII, thanks, and I'm sure you'll find what's in store very interesting, trust me! :3

 

To Sarrin, I'm glad you're looking forward to what's next! Speaking of what's next, here's the next chapter! :D

 

Good evening everyone, I hope that you’re all doing okay!  So then, I hope you’re all ready for another chapter of my story! Let’s see what’s in store!  Read on, my fellow followers!

 

Chapter Four: Enemies

 

(Start Song Here)

                A few days later, after much traveling, Zaria finally found herself in Tribal City.  It had been her destination from the start, and even though she had some setbacks, at least she had finally made it here!  Tribal City was a bustling marketplace, situated near the country of Ishi, home of the Craftsmen. Tribal City was an important trade site, as it was one of the most important locales in which food exchange, supplies, weapons and furniture were distributed and sent out to the other countries of the world.  It was a flowing city of commerce, but it was also a city that had many problems.  One of these problems were the constant stream of criminals going in and out.  Not to mention the ones that inhabited the city, whom often waged gang wars to secure some vital trade spots.  Like any city, it had its light and dark sides.  Zaria made her way through the main entrance to the city, and she passed by the guards without any problem.  Mostly because she didn’t even bother to give them a chance to glance at her.  But, since she was out in the open, with nothing concealing her, the guards didn’t think of her as someone suspicious.  Which was good for her.

 

                The thing here to note was, Zaria was a kind of jack of all trades.  She would do errand runs and special tasks for special clients who would be willing to pay up good money.  Only this time, she had nothing to offer, for the orb she was asked to retrieve was not in her persona.  Saving Felix had come with that cost.  But, she was very good at coming up with lies, so she knew she could convince the client that the orb was nothing more than a tall tale.  At least, she hoped she could be able to convince the client!

 

                As she made her way through the bustling crowds and guard patrols, she walked along a stone path that looked clean and neat, with taverns and shops dotted sparingly.  She had gotten into a part of the city no one crossed too much, due to the criminal problem surrounding the area.  This worked to Zaria’s advantage.  She looked left and right, ensuring that she wasn’t followed, and then, she slowly went through a spacious gap in between two houses, and after squeezing her way through, she walked upon a wall.  She knocked on it, and seconds later, a small lid slid sideways, and a pair of menacing eyes looked at her.

(End Song Here)

 

                “Here to see the boss?” the voice asked, sounding like that of a man’s.  Zaria nodded. “Did you get the orb?” he asked.  She shook her head.  The man chuckled softly and then pulled open a hidden door.  He eyed Zaria as she made her way inside, and she paid no attention to the way he was looking at her. He almost felt sorry for her.

 

                “Heh, don’t know why you even bothered to show up. The boss won’t like the bad news you’re bringing to him.  You should’ve run when you had the chance.” the man said, closing the door and then crossing his arms as he leaned his back against the wall.

 

                “Well hey, I’m a person with some dignity, so the least I can do is face him.  Besides, that orb was nothing more than a bedtime story. A legend, really.” she answered cooly.

 

(Start Song Here)

                “Is that so?” a voice sounded from the shadows.  Zaria looked towards the far side of the room, and from the shadows, a middle aged man, sporting gear that looked like that of a mercenary’s, stepped forth, with a very displeased expression on his face.  “So, am I to assume that what you’re telling me is true?” the man asked, pulling up a chair and sitting on it, looking at Zaria expectantly.

 

                “Yep.  No doubt about it.  I took this mission for you and I checked out the ruins to see if that orb of yours was real. But apparently, it was nothing more than a legend.  That old thing probably went to hell along with the ruins a long time ago.  So it was a lost cause, you see.” Zaria said, relaxed and unflinching.  She certainly had the doorman fooled, but the mercenary still didn’t buy her story.

 

                “Zaria, you’re a favorite of mine.  I’ve counted on you to do me many favors, and you’ve delivered excellently to me always.  I find this one failure of yours to be quite unnerving.” the man poked, trying to see if he could make Zaria budge.

 

                “Look, Drake, even I fail sometimes.  I am human, after all.  Probably one of the few left in this godforsaken planet…” she said, sounding annoyed.  Drake looked at her for a while, and then he eyed the doorman and nodded to him.  Once Zaria heard the lock of the door click, she knew that she was in trouble.  Drake sighed.

 

                “You really aren’t making me feel any better, Zaria.  Now, I don’t think that you failed.  I think that you intentionally wanted to piss me off.  I don’t have my orb, and as a result, you have made me very angry!” he enunciated, as he put his hand on his sword and drew it out from its sheath!  Zaria raised her hands up and sighed.

 

                “Look, can’t you cut a girl a break? Like you said, I’ve always delivered for you, so I don’t think that one failure is enough to make me get on your bad side, right?” she asked, hoping to lighten up the mood.  Drake swung his sword and shook his head.

(End Song Here)

 

                “Unfortunately, young lady, our negotiations here must come to an end!” he said, as he thrust his sword forward!  But before managing to land the blow, Zaria stepped sideways and dodged, and then she quickly proceeded to run towards Drake and disarm him!  She grabbed his wrist and then twisted it, making him let go of the sword!  The doorman then tried to attack her from behind, but Zaria simply flung Drake towards him, making the two of them crash against one another!  They fell to the ground in a daze, and Zaria cursed under her breath.

 

                “And here I wanted to end things on a happy note…guess a girl can’t always get the happy ending she wants!” she said, as she looked around for the quickest exit!  But she couldn’t find any!

 

(Start Song Here)

                “Get her!” Drake shouted, still dizzy from crashing against the doorman!  And so, multiple doors opened, and now the room was filled with Drake’s men, all armed to the teeth!  Some of them bore swords, while others had axes or crossbows!  Zaria facepalmed and groaned.

 

                “Seriously, what the hell!?” she shouted in annoyance!  Without a second to waste, Drake’s men assaulted her!

 

                Zaria stepped back and punched one of the men right on the face, knocking him out on the spot!  Another one tried to swing their sword at her, but she grabbed his hands, disarmed him, then took the sword from him and ran it through him, then using it to block the attacks from Drake’s other men!  As one of the men prepared to fire a crossbow bolt, she dodge rolled out of the way, and the arrow accidentally hit one of the other men, causing the poor man to fall down to the floor, dead! She then ran along the wall and took down one of the crossbowmen, and then she flung her sword against the other one taking aim, chopping off his hand and making the crossbow drop to the floor in an instant!  Now there were about eight men left standing!

 

                “Come on, do you really want to do this? You can all just walk away, there’s no need for things to end like this!” Zaria warned, but was met with more attacks!  She dodged them and then picked up another sword and swiped it at two more men!  “Well, can’t say I didn’t try to leave peacefully!”

 

                And so, Zaria proceeded to stab her sword clean through another of Drake’s men, then dodging an axe swipe from another!  She then flung the man she had just slain towards the axe wielder, making him tumble and fall on the floor!  Once down, she pounced on him and cracked his neck! The remaining three men were clearly hesitating to approach her.  Zaria then laughed.

 

                “Okay, I see that at least you three are more sensible. I’ll give you a break and let you walk out of here without you having to die.” she stated cheerfully, to which the three men whimpered and left quicker than quick!  She giggled to herself, but was then caught off guard, as the doorman had gotten behind her and put his arms around her neck, attempting to strangle her!  She choked for a bit and was facing danger at the moment, but then, she drove herself towards the wall, and then she ran up it, managing to shake the doorman loose and then land behind him!  She took out a small knife she had strapped to her belt, and she stabbed the doorman’s neck, killing him on the spot! She then turned around and saw Drake, just about to cleave her in two, but she managed to dodge the sword swing, but just barely!

 

                “Damn you, Zaria! You’ve cost me my men!” Drake shouted, irritated!  Zaria shrugged sarcastically.

 

                “Hey, I was going to leave peacefully, but you didn’t let me! I wasn’t going to let myself get killed!” she protested, managing to rile up Drake even more!  He yelled and charged forward, only to trip because of a surprise low kick Zaria delivered, making him fall on his face!  For a moment, she considered sparing his life, but seeing as how she wasn’t going to receive that mercy moments ago, she took her knife and ran it through Drake’s skull, ending his life!  She then withdrew the blade from his skull, wiping off the blood with a small, bandaged scarf she bore in a small pouch she had.  She put her hands on her hips and looked at her handiwork.

(End Song Here)

 

                “Well, not one of my brightest moments.  But, I had to end negotiations somehow! Anyways, I should get out of here quickly.  The guards could come around any second…” she thought to herself, and with that, she looked around and noticed another door to the right.  She took for that direction, and then she proceeded to exit to where there seemed to be a hallway.  When she went through that hallway, she saw another door, and when she went to open it, she saw that it lead to the city plaza!  She quickly went out and closed the door behind her, and she made sure no one was watching her!  She then checked her clothing and saw that surprisingly, she hadn’t gotten any blood on her, which was good!  The less reason for guards to stop and question her!  And so, she walked among the crowd, and she looked at the tall buildings that loomed over the city.

 

                “It’s not easy, being a human in a changed world…but oh well, what can I do? At least I’ve made it fine on my own so far…” she thought to herself, as she walked among the crowds, disappearing from any prying eyes that would follow her…

 

---

 

(Start Song Here)

                Elsewhere, in what seemed to be an old factory, a person stood, near a cliff, to be precise.  The person was staring towards the horizon, down a valley that apparently housed an abyss that was clear as day!  This person seemed to be contemplating the abyss, when someone walked up to said person!

 

                “Well? What do you think?” the person asked, revealing itself to be a woman, silver haired and with yellow eyes.  She bore a sleeveless jean jacket, a short, white tank top underneath, and some long, camo colored pants.

 

                “He seems to be somewhat convinced.” the voice answered, being Beriel. “But he denied my offer. As was to be expected.  What do you think will happen now, Ellene?”

 

                “Well, it’s only a matter of time before he comes to us.  Before long, he’ll be searching for our help.  That, or he’ll actually try to get change done with his own hands, which would prove rather difficult.  But, this is Vincent we’re talking about, and he’s an unpredictable man.” Ellene answered.

 

                “Then do we wait and see for what happens?” Beriel asked.  Ellene shook her head.

 

                “No.  We stay active, we stay mobile.  We have to continuously be on the move and keep things going forward, in order for our plans to come to fruition.  We can’t sit idly by.” she explained.

 

                “To cause a rupture to the clans, you mean?” Beriel asked as he then walked beside her and looked at the abyss she was looking at.

 

                “Yes.  They are now trying to settle themselves with what to do, and right now is when there’s disarray and uncertainty.  We strike, in plain sight, but we remain discreet.  We’ll ensure that things go our way.” Ellene said, with a firm tone in her voice.  She seemed headstrong in her conviction!  Beriel chuckled softly and then he crossed his arms.

 

                “So, tell me, what is it that you find in that abyss so interesting, that I always find you looking at it here?” he asked, genuinely curious!  Ellene turned to look at him, and she smiled.

 

                “No reason in particular, really.” was her reply.  “I just find it interesting that such an abyss can exist in this world.  The fact that it looks endless and runs for miles and miles deep into the earth interests me.  I believe this one here was caused during the Calamity, if I’m not mistaken.”

 

                “Your words ring true.  You’ve been keeping up with your history.” Beriel confirmed.  “When the Calamity came, abysses such as these formed, not just here, but in different parts around the world.  This is just one of many left by those who came before.  Hmm, now that we’re discussing this, I can see why you’re so interested.  Things like these are definitely intriguing to observe!” he commented, stroking his beard.

 

                “That’s right.  Anyways, have you heard from Lucinda?” Ellene asked.  Beriel allowed himself a grin as he put his hands behind his back.

 

                “I saw her a few days ago.  She came to me one night, and she scolded me for wanting to look at the beautiful night sky that night.  She thought I was dozing around.  Hehe, she’s quite the amusing one.  Very eager to do things.  No doubt that’s why we chose her to join us.” he replied.  Ellene nodded, as she then turned around and started walking downward, away from the abyss.

 

                “Well, at least she’s doing okay.  So then, let’s be heading back.  We have to plan our next phases.  We have to go over our plans with the others!” she said.  Beriel then followed behind.

 

                “Ma’am.” he said as he bowed his head politely, the two of them walking together to who knows where.

(End Song Here)

 

---

 

                Back in Tribal City, Zaria kept to herself, and she was walking silently among the crowds.  Patrols had increased.  No doubt that they managed to find the mess that Zaria had left behind.  As long as no one had seen her, she was okay!  She then stopped at a crossroads, where the city divided now towards many settlements.  There were many beautiful houses, some looking like mansions, others looking like casual houses, but all with a certain charm to them.  She could see the people of these houses tending to their gardens or playing with their pets, or just sitting on the porch, watching people walk by.  Every house had someone doing something.  She didn’t stay for too long, though, and she walked to the right, heading down towards what seemed to be a park where the children would play. There were two sets of swings, rusty, from the looks of things, but in working order!  There was also a seesaw, a slide, monkey bars, and what seemed to be a fort!  A sandbox could be seen to the far right, with two gray buckets toppled to the side, filled with sand!  Zaria could see the children playing.  About five of them, to be precise.  Two little girls and three little boys.  They all looked happy and eager, playing together!  Zaria decided to sit down on a nearby bench and watch them play.  She set aside her backpack, and she relaxed as she sat, watching the children play.  At the same time, she thought about what she would be doing next.

 

                “Well, I lost one client in the form of Drake…but, I have a few other clients to fall back on.  But as things are right now, it may be difficult finding some work.  Looks like the clans are having trouble with something.  What it is, I don’t know, but I can tell something’s going on just by looking at how the people are behaving.  There seems to be a nervous air of some sort…” she thought to herself, as she closed her eyes and rubbed her chin.  “This is such a drag…”

 

(Start Song Here)

                “Ahhhh!!!!” the children screamed, making Zaria snap out of herself!  She stood up in alarm, and she saw that the children were being chased by what looked to be strange creatures!  One of the little girls tripped, and one of the creatures was about to claw at her, when Zaria came and kicked it hard, making it fly back towards the wall and crash with a sickening thud!  She landed gracefully, and then she checked to see if the little girl was okay!

 

                “You holding up good?” she asked.  The little girl shivered a bit, but stood up and nodded.

 

                “Y-yeah!  Thanks for saving me, lady!” the little girl bowed appreciatively. Zaria smiled and put a thumbs up!

 

                “Don’t sweat it, kid!  Now you go with your friends, and go to your parents.  I’ll take care of the rest!” she said.  The little girl nodded, and then she ran towards her friends, and they all fled the park!  The little girl then turned around and looked at Zaria before turning away and running off!

 

                “Now then…just what the hell are you things?” Zaria thought to herself.  She took a closer look and saw that these creatures seemed to be some type of wolf looking animal!  But there was a different feel to it!  These wolf looking creatures had piercing red eyes, and a dark aura that emanated from their bodies!  Their fur was a dark gray, and their claws looked especially sharp!  They looked like wolves, but weren’t actually as big!  But she ventured a guess that these things bit harder than a regular wolf!  She then drew her knife and cracked her knuckles!

 

                “Come at me, mutts!” she taunted, to which the creatures charged at her with an almost blinding speed!  She was barely able to block their attacks, and then she backflipped and climbed towards the monkey bars!  “What the hell!? These things are freakishly fast!” she exclaimed, as she saw them climbing up to her, almost catching up to her! 

 

                She kicked one of them in the mouth, making it fall down, and then she lunged towards the other creature, stabbing its right eye, which made it growl in a distorted way!  She then drew the knife out of the creatures eye and then proceeded to stab it repeatedly in the stomach until it bled out and fell limp on the floor!  Now, only the other creature remained, and it was now circling around Zaria, as if thinking how to come at her!  She took stance and prepared herself to brace for an attack, and eventually, the creature charged at her and pounced on her!  Her knife was jerked away, and now, she was at the mercy of the creatures claws! Zaria tried to hold the creature back as much as she could, but it managed to claw at her, two of its claws sinking just below her chest!  She groaned in pain, and then she kicked the creature’s stomach, making it yelp in surprise!  Even with the pain from the creature’s attack, Zaria immediately jolted towards the knife, and when the creature came upon her, she stabbed the knife clean through its stomach, causing it to whimper and die!  Then, a few short seconds later, the creatures disappeared, their bodies slowly turning into ashes and then vaporizing in the air!  Zaria panted and then touched her wound.  It was superficial, but nonetheless, it hurt all the same!  She could feel the blood trickling down her abdomen, and she bit her lower lip, frustrated at this outcome!

(End Song Here)

 

                “Damn it…just when I thought I could get through here quietly…” she thought to herself.  “Well, it can’t be helped…I’ll have to get this stitched up…but I can’t stop here.  I’m going to have to go to the next town over…God, I really hope I can make it in time…” she thought, as she then went towards her backpack and walked up the path leading towards the settlements!  Soon after, she zipped through the crowd, trying to hide her wound from any prying eyes.  She looked back, hoping there were no patrols around, and when she looked to the front, she bumped into someone and fell on the floor!  The crowd stopped and looked at her, and she felt quite embarrassed!  Not to mention she now felt more pressured to hide her wound!

 

                “You there!” a guard called out!  Zaria kept her composure, but on the inside, she was cursing her luck!  This was not turning out to be a good day!  “Get up!” the guard commanded.  Zaria gulped and slowly stood up, and then she faced the guard.

 

                “Yes…?” she asked.

 

                “You are bleeding…we found some dead bodies near here…do you have any relation to this incident?” the guard asked, making Zaria feel immensely nervous!  She was about to say something, when the little girl she had saved came running to her!

 

                “Nice lady!!!  Nice lady, there you are!  Thank you for saving me and my friends!” she yelped as she hugged Zaria tightly!

 

                “Good God, thank you for this awesome save!” Zaria thought to herself in relief!

 

                “What do you mean, little one?” the guard asked as he smiled, kneeling in front of the little girl, though he eyed Zaria nonetheless.

 

                “Oh, well, you see, me and my friends were playing in the park, and then some really scary wolf looking things came, and they wanted to eat us!  This nice lady saved us from those scary animals!” the little girl explained.  At that, the guard quickly stood up, and his face changed expression from one of suspicion to one of gratitude.  He then bowed to Zaria!

 

                “Thank you for saving these children!  Now I see…these creatures were the ones that did this to you. I’m sorry for thinking you were in league with Drake and his mercenaries.  My deepest and most sincerest apologies!” the guard said, expressing sincerity in his words!  Zaria blushed a little and waved her hands dismissively.

 

                “Hey, don’t worry about it. I know it’s not normal to see a girl bleeding on the streets like that, so you were right to be suspicious!” Zaria said, making her act more convincing in doing so!

 

                “I appreciate your understanding.  But tell me, were these creatures as the little girl described them?” the guard asked.  Zaria nodded.

 

                “Yep, they definitely looked like wolves, but something about them seemed off, now that you mention it!” she replied.  The guard looked troubled by this, and then he crossed his arms.

 

                “It looks like these dare creatures are appearing everywhere.  Cases like this are happening in different parts of the world.  This doesn’t bode well…but anyways, thank you for your time and cooperation.” the guard bowed again, and then he turned towards the crowd, whom had stayed watching this all go down!  “Come on people, nothing to see here!  Get back to your business!  And men, we need to tighten our patrols and tell the captain about these creatures!” he said, and so, everyone went about their business, and the guards scattered to more parts of the city, to investigate if more of these creatures were around. 

 

                “As for you, you should get that would tended to.  Otherwise, you’ll get infected.  Good day, ma’am.” the guard nodded at Zaria, and then he left.  The little girl was still beside Zaria, tugging at her shirt, and she looked down on her, and noticed that her eyes were all watery!

 

                “Hey kid, what’s wrong?  Why the long face?” Zaria asked, kneeling down to her face, wincing as she did so due to her wound.  The little girl poked Zaria’s cheek and then tugged at her hair!

 

                “You’re badly hurt!  Those mean wolves attacked you!  Come to my house, and my mama can make it all better!” the little girl pleaded!

 

                “…I appreciate what you’re doing kid, but I have to leave…” Zaria said, but as she stood up, the little girl wouldn’t let go!

 

                “Nooo!!! I won’t let you go until you feel better!” the little girl shouted, holding on to Zaria’s leg! She looked at her, and seeing her so concerned for her health brought a warm smile to her face.  She then rolled her eyes and sighed.

 

                “Geez, I can’t make this kid die of worry…I guess I can take her up on her offer…” she thought.  “Alright kid, take me to your mother so she can patch me up!” she said, to which the little girl’s eyes sparkled, and the tears stopped!  The little girl smiled and then held Zaria’s hand and started to run, dragging Zaria across the city!

 

                “Okay nice lady, this way, don’t let go of my hand, or you’ll get lost!” the little girl explained!

 

                “The name’s Zaria, kid!” Zaria said as they ran!  The little girl looked back at her with a grin!

 

                “My name’s Emily!  Nice to meet you, Zaria!” Emily said with a humble smile plastered on her face! Zaria couldn’t help but smile back.

 

                “Back at you, kid.  Back at you!” Zaria replied, as the two of them zipped through the bustling crowds!

 

                After a few minutes, they walked along a small bridge that overlooked a little creek that flowed downstream.  After passing through this bridge, they arrived at a settlement area, and the houses here were a bit more separate from the other.  This part of the city seemed to be more peaceful, and it actually resided near a forest area, so the houses here enjoyed the comforts that nature provided, such as fruits, vegetables, water and clean air! Zaria liked the feel of this area!  Emily then let go of Zaria’s hand and headed towards a house that was near a cliff that overlooked a small valley that lay beyond, where the creek joined up to a small river!  She knocked on the door frantically, and when it opened, she was greeted by a middle aged woman with raven black hair and hazel eyes. Most likely Emily’s mother.  She had an emerald dress on, and she was overjoyed when she saw her daughter!

 

                “Mama, mama, look who I brought here! That’s the nice lady who saved me and my friends! Her name’s Zaria!” Emily said as she pointed to Zaria, who gave an awkward wave hello!  Emily’s mother bowed her had appreciatively, and she looked at Zaria with eyes of gratitude!

 

                “I thank you for saving my daughter and her friends.  You don’t know how relieved I am to see that they’re safe!” the mother said.

 

                “Did Emily say her name was Zaria?” a voice asked.  Zaria looked to her right and noticed the other children she had saved looking at her!

 

                “That’s her!  It’s superhero Zaria!!!” the other little girl shouted, and she, along with the three little boys, headed straight towards Zaria and bombarded her with hugs!

 

                “Thank you for saving us Zaria, you’re awesome!” one of the little boys said!

 

                “You’re so brave!” the other little girl said!  Zaria was overwhelmed, and she wasn’t used to getting so much hugs!  Emily then came running like a dog chasing after a bone, and she pulled the other kids away from Zaria and then she glared at them!

 

                “You meanies!  Can’t you see that Zaria’s hurt!?  She needs to get patched up by mama!” Emily explained!  The other kids then looked down, probably feeling embarrassed that Emily was scolding them like an adult!

 

                “It’s okay, Emily, they didn’t know.  They meant well.  But yeah kids, I wouldn’t get close to me for the time being now, since those big bad wolves managed to hurt me a bit.” she said casually.  The little kids looked at her in awe, and they seemed almost inspired, even!

 

                “Wow, you got hurt by wolves and you’re still standing!?  You’re so cool!!!!  Come on guys, let’s go and leave Zaria alone so Emily’s mom can make her get better!” one of the boys said, and the others followed, waving goodbye to Zaria!  She then saw Emily’s mother approaching her.

 

                “Zaria, allow me to take a look at you.  My name is Elina.  Please, come in.” she gestured, as she held Zaria’s hand and brought her into the living room of her house.  Emily followed inside quickly, and then she sat on a nearby couch, while Elina took a good look at Zaria’s wound on the other couch that lay across the one Emily was sitting on.

 

                “I see that those creatures did manage to hurt you…but luckily, it’s only a superficial wound.  Still, if left unchecked, it could give you a nasty infection.  I’ll take care of it now.” Elina explained. Zaria nodded.

 

                “Well, do what you gotta do.” she replied, as she looked at Emily, who was smiling at her.  She took a closer look at her, and noticed that she had short, light brown hair and caramel colored skin.  She had big, green eyes, and she had a shirt with the picture of a cute skull with a heart and some shorts on.  Clearly, Emily was a tomboy.  Zaria smiled and liked how Emily seemed to be a girl that didn’t sit and let things pass her by.  Emily looked like a girl with a mission!

 

                “There, it’s all done!” Elina said, making Zaria snap out of herself.

 

                “Wait, already?” she asked, and then she noticed that Elina’s hand had been giving off a soft, green aura that had just now faded away. When Zaria looked at her wound, she noticed that it was completely gone!

 

                “Ah, wow, so you’re from the Lifespring clan, huh?  That’s pretty amazing.  Thank you for healing me up!” Zaria said.  Elina shook her head.

 

                “It’s no problem at all. After saving my daughter, healing you is the least I could do!” she said.

 

                “Now, you can stay for dinner!  Mom’s making some soup and salad, and she always makes the best food, so you’re invited to come eat with us!” Emily beamed cheerfully!

 

                “Oh, sorry kid, but I really have to get going now.  I’m already late as it is, I can’t delay myself any longer!” Zaria answered, trying to make for the door.

 

                “Aw, pretty please?  You can go after you eat!  Please say you’ll stay!” Emily pleaded, her eyes sparkling like a puppy’s!

 

                “It’s really no trouble at all! Elina expressed.  Zaria hesitated for a moment, but then she smiled.

 

                “Okay, okay, I’ll stay and eat. But after dinner, I really need to go!” Zaria said.  Emily jumped from the couch and clapped her hands!

 

                “Yay, Zaria’s gonna eat with us!!!” Emily said cheerfully, while Elina laughed, enjoying seeing her daughter smile!

 

                “Why do I have to like kids so much…?  Oh well, I guess it can’t be helped.  After I eat, then I’ll leave…I can’t stay here longer than I have to…” Zaria thought to herself as she watched Emily happily running around the living room.

 

---------------------------------------------

 

With her wound healed and food to be provided to her, Zaria prepares for the next step and make herself disappear before the public eye.  With Drake and his mercenaries dead, she’s to look to other clients for jobs.  How will this fare for her?  And how is the leader of the Stormtracer clan, Saphira, handling the current situation at hand?  Find out in Chapter Five: “Grim Winds!”

 

Well everyone, that was the chapter, I hope you all enjoyed it!  I hope I’m getting details down as best as possible, and I hope you like the characters introduced so far!  I’m sure you’ll love what’s to come!  Anyways, thank you all for reading, and for your immense support!  Let me know what you thought about tonight’s chapter!  And until next time, I’ll see you all around! :D

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Cool? Zarias in tribal city for five minutes before going on a total murder spree and or magical animal cruelty walks away with barely a scratch gets off scott free after the guard this was just nuts

Keep up the work!

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To KHLegendIII, thanks, I'm glad you thought so! :3

 

To Sarrin, lol, haha, well, this story is meant to be a rollercoaster ride, so I'm glad it's having that effect on you! Lol, see? Already starting this story, and we've created memories together! Ain't it great? xD

 

To Keyblade101, like Sora would say: "Hehe, that's a secret!" :P

 

Hey there everyone, here’s another chapter for you all! I hope that you’ve been all doing okay! So then, let’s see what this chapter holds, shall we? Read on, everyone! :D

 

Chapter Five: Grim Winds

 

(Start Song Here)

                Saphira was uneasy.  She knew that the previous clan meeting had yielded less than pleasant results.  With the darkness creeping to destroy the world and bring an end to it, and with Vincent currently back on Pyros, things are definitely not good.  Vincent was capable of anything, and his talk of liberating his people from the duties of a Scorched sounded serious, so she knew that he’d break off communication with the other clans.  It was only a matter of time before another clan meeting was held! Saphira put her hands behind her back, and she walked towards a large window that was across her desk.  As she walked, her footsteps echoed all over the office.  For you see, her office didn’t have all that many things.  A desk, a small blue rug, two plants in jars on either side of the office, and a small desk to the right of the window she was walking towards were the only things decorating her office.  Saphira wasn’t one for gallant flash or stylish décor.  She was more of a simple person, and her office reflected her simplicity!

 

                And so, Saphira walked towards the window, and when she looked through it, she saw the clear blue sky before her, giant clouds billowing softly with the wind, covering the sun, which was high up in the sky!  Looking at the sky like this always calmed Saphira down, and it allowed her to think more clearly.  She then looked downward, and she could see the vast expanse of land that lay below.  For you see, her abode rested high upon a mountain, very high up, actually. Stormpeak Fortress was at the height of the world, overlooking all other countries, serving as a sort of central beacon for the world!  Which spoke of the Stormtracers and their purpose.  The fact that they nestled themselves so high up above the clouds spoke of their duty as overseers of the world, ensuring that natural catastrophes don’t cost the lives of innocents, and that any unearthly things are spotted firsthand from the sky!  Saphira, leader of the Stormtracers, took her duties seriously, and she always believed that a firm balance needed to be kept so that the world wouldn’t fall into chaos.

 

                But that’s precisely what had happened!  The world was now in danger of being swallowed by darkness, because the balance has broken!  After so many years, after so much hard work, it would seem that it wasn’t enough! Saphira closed her eyes and breathed in and then breathed out.  She needed to keep a clear mind on the matter, and she needed to act.  She had already alerted her Dragoon soldiers to be at the ready for anything, so immediate action would be possible in the event of any unexpected happenings!

 

                “What will we do?” she thought to herself, as she was troubled.  She stroked her chin and bit her lower lip, as she usually did when she was thinking.  “Things are bad enough as they are, and now we don’t know how to handle this situation…this is definitely not looking good…” she thought.  Suddenly, she heard knocking on the door.

 

                “Come in!” she said.  When the door opened, she noticed that it was Ilia’s faithful servant, the Oracle! “Ah, it’s you.  I didn’t expect you to be here today. But welcome, nonetheless.” Saphira said, as she put out a chair for the Oracle to sit.

 

                “Thank you kindly, madam.” he replied as he sat on the chair, just as Saphira sat on hers.

 

                “So then, to what do I owe this visit?” she asked, clasping her hands together.

 

                “Well, it’s concerning the pressing matter at hand.  Lady Ilia along with the other clan members are trying to keep things contained regarding the world’s crisis, but it won’t be long until the public is aware of this.  Many things have started to happen around the world.  I heard from a reliable source that there were strange, wolf looking creatures that appeared in Tribal City…those dark creatures are not common to that area.” he answered.  “What’s more, there seems to be different cases in other cities.  Creatures of different kinds, tainted by darkness, are attacking innocent civilians, and ruins that were once abandoned now serve as abodes for these creatures.  There’s also talk about protests from the public, demanding to know the cause for these strange events…and even the environment is in an ill mood…have you noticed any changes in the environment?” he asked.

 

                “Yes, now that you mention it, I have!  There have been more frequent rains, causing landslides and floods along the villages and towns, not to mention the overly strong gusts of wind that pick up here and there.  Mt. Terios seems to be more active now, almost as if it was about to erupt, and the seas are raging!  One of my Dragoons reported that no one goes along the beach anymore because of the violent waves the water brings to the shore…and then there’s also many tremors that have hit the country of the Craftsmen, so there’s that to think about as well…” Saphira explained.  The Oracle crossed his arms.

 

                “Interesting.  Well, that, coupled with the recent creature sightings will no doubt peak the public’s curiosity.  It won’t be long until all of the clan heads need to address what’s going on…” he expressed while waving his hand.

 

                “This is a very delicate matter.  Telling them everything will definitely cause a panic, and we can’t have disorder.  We need to be able to get to the bottom of this problem and resolve it as soon as possible!” Saphira said, her eyes fixed on the Oracle.

 

                “Well, then you’d better make that point clear, because it seems the other clan heads are restless. Ilia is barely keeping herself together, and with Vincent doing who knows what, we can’t even begin to imagine what he’ll do concerning his people…and well, when Eros gets angry, he’s as stubborn as the strongest rock!  The four of you must think as one cohesive unit, or things will get quite messy.” he said.  Saphira sighed and leaned her back on her chair, looking at the ceiling.

 

                “How did it come to this, Oracle?  How did the balance break in the first place?  Surely someone must know what happened!” she said, distressed.

 

                “It’s still a mystery, but when the Wraith speaks, there’s no reason to doubt him. After all, he’s the personification of death itself, and death makes no jokes, madam.” the Oracle said flatly.  Saphira rubbed her forehead and then put her hands on her desk.

 

                “That’s right…the Wraith does indeed speak the truth…this is a disaster…” she said.

 

                “Well, I’m sure all of you will think of something.  If the world has managed to survive this long, I’m sure it can survive much longer.” the Oracle encouraged, trying to lighten up the mood.  Saphira gave him a smile, and she chuckled softly.

 

                “I guess you’re right…anyways, thank you for coming here, Oracle.  If you’ll excuse me, I have matters to attend to.” she said as she stood up from her chair. He did the same.

 

                “Of course.  I’ll be taking my leave.  Good day, madam.” the Oracle bowed, and then he turned to the door, opened it, and left.

(End Song Here)

 

                A short while later, Saphira exited her office, and then she went down towards the courtyard, going through a few hallways here and there.  When she reached the courtyard, she saw that the guards were positioned at the gate, and that a few Dragoons had returned.  Everything was calm, as was usually the case.  The Stormtracers, for the most part, tried to avoid conflict of any kind.  So as a result, whenever the world faced a crisis, whenever there was dispute between countries, the Stormtracers would remain neutral, not taking to any side, and making sure that they’d be able to find a solution that required no bloodshed.  Often, it wasn’t possible to come to peaceful resolutions, so the rare times they did have to fight, they were quite adept at battle. As a result, the countries of the world feared and respected the Stormtracers for their powerful will and their undeniable combat prowess. The Dragoons were undoubtedly the pride of the Stormtracers, as these were warriors that were adept at fighting using the sky to their advantage! They were very agile and adept fighters, and as such, they were Saphira’s elite force!  As Saphira walked along the courtyard, a young dragoon, probably starting his twenties, with silver armor covering him from head to toe, entered the courtyard and went straight towards Saphira!

 

                “What is it? What have you to report?” she asked.  The Dragoon bowed and then gave a salute by placing his hand on his chest.

 

                “Saphira, it’s bad…” the Dragoon replied.  Saphira’s eyes widened because of this.

 

                “Bad…? What do you mean bad?” she asked, feeling a bit nervous over what the Dragoon would say.

 

                “I was scouting along the neighboring countries, and I noticed that there are more fissures appearing at random locations…fissures that open gaping, abysmal maws…I fear that the darkness is already spreading from the inside out…” the Dragoon reportedly grimly.

               

                “Then it’s worse than I feared…we’re already losing time…and losing life in the process…have you heard from the others?” she asked.  The Dragoon shook his head.

 

                “As far as I know, they’re still scouting.  I’m hopeful they’ll come back soon, for I fear that things may get worse if we don’t hear word from them…” the Dragoon explained, leaving Saphira to ponder his words.  She closed her eyes and rubbed her chin, and she paced back and forth.  The other Dragoons present in the courtyard all gathered around, awaiting for their leader’s orders.  She then stopped and looked at them.

 

                “We need to make the other clan leaders know about this recent turn of events.  I need to convene with them in another meeting! And it needs to happen immediately!” she expressed!

 

                “We’ll send word to the other clan leaders at once, Saphira!” the Dragoon said, and he, along with a few others, leapt high above the sky, and then disappeared with the rays of the sun!  Saphira quickly went to her quarters, and then she packed a few things she’d need for the journey to the Sanctum!  Soon enough, she left, determined and ready!

 

---

 

(Start Song Here)

                Elsewhere, Zaria was preparing to leave.  Emily had convinced her to stay the night at Elina’s house, and now that she had rested up, she was ensuring everything was in her backpack before taking her leave.  She had already eaten breakfast that Elina had made, and she had been kind enough to pack in some lunch for her in a container!  As Zaria went out the door, Emily followed after her!  Zaria turned around and then knelt down, so she could see face to face with Emily.

 

                “Well kid, this is where I leave.  I’ve got a long road ahead of me, and I have to get started. Thanks for everything!” she said, patting Emily’s head. The little girl smiled and gave a cheerful nod!

 

                “Hehe, you’re awesome, Zaria! When I grow up, I’m gonna be just like you! I’m gonna save people and make sure no one gets hurt!” Emily said, beaming with pride! This caught Zaria by surprise a little, but she quickly hid the surprise under a smile.  She rubbed Emily’s head and chuckled softly.

 

                “Heh, I’m sure you’d make a great hero, kid.  You take care now, you hear?” she said, to which Emily nodded.

 

                “Yep, and you be sure to come back sometime! You’ll always be welcome here!” Emily said.  Elina stood behind her and put her hands on her daughter’s shoulders.

 

                “That’s right, Zaria. You’ll always have a place to come back to here.  Thank you once again for saving my daughter!” she said, with teary eyes and a bright smile!  A few seconds later, the other children came out of their houses, with their parents in tow!  They all stood beside Emily and Elina, and they all gave appreciate nods and bows.

 

                “Thank you so much for saving our babies!” one of the parents said.

 

                “You don’t know how much we thank you for saving their lives!” another of the parents said.  All this praise and thanks made Zaria blush quite a bit, and she simply waved goodbye to everyone, and she then turned around and left.

 

                “Trust me kid…being a hero isn’t all you think it is…and I’m no hero…far from it…” she thought to herself as she walked away.  She didn’t turn back, she didn’t say a word.  She only kept walking.

(End Song Here)

 

                And so, Zaria left Tribal City, and she hoped to make a few miles worth of distance to put away from the city, so that the guards wouldn’t come back to question her, just in case they had found out something.  The sun was blazing hot today, and as a result, Zaria was sweating quite a bit!  It didn’t bother her all that much, though, but she did feel irritated that the sweat was staining her clothes!  Eventually, she came upon a small cluster of trees, and she decided to sit under an apple tree and enjoy the shade for a bit.  She took out a bottle of water from her backpack, and then she drank from it, enjoying the pleasant, cold, fresh taste that water offered.  After drinking half of the bottle, she closed it and then put it back in her backpack, and then she leaned her back to the apple tree, lifting her legs up to her chest, and wrapping her arms around her legs.  She took in the fresh air the trees provided, and then she thought of what she would do next.

 

                “Well…business with Drake is over…so I’m going to have to find work somewhere else.  But I don’t know if any of my clients are available now…hmph, this is such a drag…” she thought to herself, annoyed at her circumstance.

 

                A short while after, Zaria stood up and then continued walking.  She walked along a grand valley that stretched wide for quite a distance!  There were clusters of trees peppered out throughout the valley, and there were huge boulders and small pools of water, where wildlife could be seen, bathing or drinking from said water!  As she walked through this valley, she noticed a giant building that towered over the entire valley!  But it was abandoned, though.  In fact, it was quite desolate looking! This building was what people would have called a skyscraper, back before the Calamity occurred.  But right now, it was only a giant relic from a bygone era. Zaria stood for a while, taking a look at this ruined old building, and after a while of pondering, she continued on her way.

 

                Eventually, she came upon a large, thankfully concrete bridge.  It stretched out towards the valley’s exit, and below the bridge, there was nothing but rocky terrain, and many huge boulders with spiked tips poking out!  Zaria whistled, impressed at the long fall and the grim fate of those who’d fall down such a height!

               

                “Well…that’s a pleasant sight…” she thought to herself.  She quickly crossed over the bridge, not wanting to remain longer than she had to. After she crossed, she made it to the valley’s exit. Now, she found herself on what seemed to be a road, probably leading to another town or city.  The road bent downwards, a bit steep.  She looked down and noticed that the road curved to the right, and down that road, she saw that the green pastures gave way to rocky terrain!  And so, she went down the road and then kept walking along it, making her way through the field of rocks and boulders.  It was quiet now, and it seemed as though there was no life around here.  At least, none that Zaria had noticed!

 

                “Wandering around here makes me uneasy…I should really try to get out of here as fast as I can…” she thought to herself, as she picked up the pace!

 

                Some time passed, and then, when she saw that the rock laden landscape was now giving way to what seemed to be a long, grassy plain, Zaria felt her shoulders loosen, and she felt more relaxed.  She could see the main road now, where people often traveled along when they were going to trade their goods in other towns.  She walked along said path, and she noticed that there were some people riding wagons, with their cargo in the back of said wagons!  She then saw other people mounted on what seemed to be hovering bikes.  They looked ancient, and they looked like they were scrapped from any piece of junk, but they had that futuristic feel at the same time.  Zaria had always wondered about these little pieces of strange material she’d encounter.  She had always heard how during the age before the Calamity, it was an age where technology such as the ones some of these travelers used were plentiful.  She had heard stories from passing travelers and people who claimed were survivors from the Calamity.  So seeing those hover bike looking vehicles definitely made Zaria’s day!  She would wave and nod at the passing travelers, but she wouldn’t stop and talk.  She couldn’t afford to slow down.  Hopefully, she’d soon get to a trading center, where one of her clients worked often!

 

                But all of a sudden, the ground started to tremble.  At first, it was inconsequential, but a few seconds later, the ground shook violently, and the people walking along the path tumbled down, some of them in panic, others annoyed!  Zaria managed to stay on her feet, though just barely!

 

(Start Song Here)

                “What the hell was that…?” she asked herself.  She was about to shrug it off and keep walking when, just a few feet away from her, the ground burst, and a giant, slithering snake came out, hissing violently, with steel looking scales and violently red eyes!  The surrounding people screamed and started to run away in panic, which only caused the snake to make its move much faster!  It slithered its way out of the ground, and it managed to swipe many people and their wagons and vehicles with its giant tail, which seemed to have some sort of sharp point at the very tip!  Those caught by it were unfortunately skewered!  Zaria’s eyes widened, and everyone else kept running!

 

                “Run away!!!  The devils are coming for us!” one traveler screamed, but Zaria stayed put!

 

                “That thing’s just like those wolf looking creatures I fought back in Tribal City…damn it, don’t tell me that this is a widespread thing?” Zaria scoffed, cursing under her breath!  She was about to run away, when she saw a few people that were attempting to run away from the giant snake, but it was dangerously close to them!  It was just about to open its giant mouth to devour them!

 

                Instinct kicked in, and Zaria ran towards the snake, passing by the people running from it, and then, she drew her knife and jumped on the snake’s face, then proceeding to stab its right eye!  The snake hissed in pain, and it tried to shake Zaria away, but she only used her knife to stab the snake’s head, using it as a holding on point as it shook violently, trying to set itself free from her!  She noticed that its scales were indeed of a steel type material, but the snake’s weakness lied in the fact that for each scale, there was a tiny bit of exposed flesh underneath.  The fact she had been able to stab the snake in the head and hold on was thanks to finding one of those exposed flesh bits! Talk about luck!  She looked at the people down below, whom were standing in shock, watching what was happening!

 

                “What are you waiting for!? Get the hell out of here!” she shouted, snapping them out of themselves, which prompted them to run like mad!

 

                “Seriously, the things I do for people…” Zaria thought to herself, as she then stabbed the same spot she had stabbed repeatedly, hoping to make the snake fall down for her to be able to fight it on more stable ground, but that was proving a challenge!  The snake’s remaining eye gleamed a deadly red, and it seemed to be secreting some type of ooze from its body!  Zaria immediately picked up on it and decided it was best to hop off from the snake, lest she be poisoned!  And so, she leapt off from the snake, with knife in hand, and then she landed on the ground, and there she stood, ready to continue fighting the gargantuan creature!  It hissed and positioned itself in a defensive manner, and then it opened its mouth wide and gave out a menacing hiss!

 

                “Yeah, come on, bring it on!” Zaria challenged, as she clenched her fists!  She was really starting to hate coming upon these types of situations!

 

                Before Zaria knew it, though, she saw that the snake was already upon her, surrounding her with its giant body!  It was attempting to squish her alive, and she wasn’t able to react in time!  Now, she was being constricted against the snake’s body, its metal scales pressing against her!  Even though the scales tips were blunt, it wouldn’t be long till they pierced into her skin!  She cursed under her breath and struggled to make her way out!  The giant snake lowered its head to her level, and it hissed menacingly, glaring at her with its remaining eye, while the other one was sealed shut, bleeding purple blood!  Zaria saw that there was no way out of this!  She then closed her eyes and clenched her fists.

 

                “Damn it…this isn’t going to end well…damn it all!” she thought to herself infuriatingly!  The snake tightened its grip on Zaria, making her breath slowly stop!  Her vision was starting to blur, when suddenly, she saw a light blue streak pierce through the sky!  It was a momentary streak, almost like a flash of lightning!  She then felt herself lighter, and loose! She tumbled on the ground, and she heard the giant snake hissing in pain!  After rubbing her eyes and groggily attempt to stand up, her vision cleared, and she saw that the snake’s head was impaled by a lance!  And said lance belonged to a man, clad in dragon like armor!  It glistened silver with the sun, its glow radiant and magnificent!  The helmet of said man had the design of a dragon’s head, and behind the helmet, there was a long, feathery mane that was colored pale blue!  The helmet concealed the man’s face, but just by looking at his armor and the weapon he bore, Zaria could tell who this was.  Or, at the very least, what kind of person he was.

 

                “A Dragoon…” she whispered to herself.  She’d only seen a few from afar, but this was the first time she had seen one so close to her!  The Dragoon, piercing its lance through the snake’s head, remained quiet!  The snake, though hissing with pain, still breathed, and it attempted to shake off the Dragoon!  He leapt away from the snake, and it tried to lash out at him, launching what Zaria assumed was acid from its mouth!  It proved to be true once the Dragoon dodged, for the spot he was previously at was now a small crater, bubbling with acid!  The Dragoon sidestepped for every bit of acid the snake attempted to hurt him with, and then, when he was close enough to the snake, he used his lance as a pole, propelling himself forward, and then using that momentum to land on the ground and launch himself up!  Once high above, with a good distance between himself and the snake, he plummeted down with the same streak that Zaria had seen him enter!  Only this time, he swung his lance in an arc, so that when he landed, he beheaded the snake clean!  And just like that, the battle was over!  Zaria sighed of relief, and she shook her head, not believing the luck she had!

(End Song Here)

 

                “That was extremely close…” she said to herself.  A few remaining people in the area were awe-struck, and Zaria was just about to approach the Dragoon, when he stretched out his hand, gesturing her to halt.

 

                “All of you, move back…” he said, and everyone in the surrounding area did so. The Dragoon then leapt back a ways, and the snake started to vaporize, fading away from existence!  But as it did so, there was a low, grumbling noise that could be heard!  Within a few seconds, the ground where the snake had perished started go cave in, and before anyone knew it, a giant crater formed, inside giving way to an abyss!  The ground started to shake again, and everyone then ran away from the crater, attempting to put as much distance as they could from it!  Once the rumbling stopped, everyone remained where they were, except for the Dragoon, whom walked towards the abyss and looked down at it.  He sighed and shook his head.

 

                “This is getting worse every single time…Saphira won’t like this…” he thought to himself.  Then, he heard some background applause!  When he looked back, he saw the people who had stayed behind applauding him, grateful for saving them from the giant snake!  He wasn’t one for crowds, and he was actually quite modest when met with praise.  So he only nodded and kept his head low.  They also clapped for Zaria, who had also done her best to face the giant snake!

 

                “Thank you, both of you! You’ve saved us!” they said.  They bowed and nodded appreciatively, and then they started to be on their way.  Only Zaria and the Dragoon remained.  When the people were far away enough, the Dragoon looked at the abyss again.  He seemed troubled.  Zaria wanted to thank him for saving her, so she walked up to him.

 

                “Um, hey…thanks for saving my back there…I would’ve probably been eaten by that snake if you hadn’t come along…so thanks!” she said.  She was met with silence.

 

                “Um…okay? I’m trying to thank you here…” she mumbled.  The Dragoon then turned around and looked at her.  He took off his helmet, revealing him to be a man that could have been the same age as Zaria, or maybe slightly older! He had short, spiky pale blue hair, like his feathered mane on his helmet, and he had yellow eyes and white skin.  He had a stern look about him, but at the same time, he seemed kind.

 

                “Tell me…was this your first time taking on a Shadow Blight?” he asked suddenly.  Zaria didn’t answer for a moment, but then she snapped back to herself.

 

                “You mean that snake?  Well, I did fight some strange, wolf looking creatures before, so this would be my second time fighting a…Shadow Blight, as you call it.” she answered.  The Dragoon then turned to look at the abyss again.

 

                “Hmm…interesting.” was his reply. 

 

                “Um, why do you ask?” Zaria questioned, curious to know why he was asking such a thing.  He turned around to face her again and stared at her for a bit.

 

                “I just find a normal human like you taking on a Shadow Blight to be either a brave, or foolish act.  Nonetheless, you impressed me with your guts.” he answered.  Zaria didn’t know if this was a compliment or an insult, so she just remained quiet.  The Dragoon looked at her with curiosity, and then he bowed his head.

 

                “I am Laren, Dragoon Knight of the Stormtracers.  And you are?” he asked after making his introduction.  Zaria nodded and placed her hand on her chest.

 

                “I’m Zaria Horosha, a wandering traveler. Thank you for saving me.” she said.  Laren nodded his head slightly and formed a small smile.

 

                “Well then, I think it’s best that you head on your way.  The rest of the Dragoons and I shall gather and investigate this matter.  This abyss marks one of many that have appeared all over the world, and the frequency of these abyss sightings is starting to increase…so I suggest you go to wherever it is you need to go.” he said.

 

(Start Song Here)

                “All right then, I won’t keep you from your job.  Thanks again.” she said, and with that, she went and walked past Laren, continuing on the path.  All of a sudden, she saw a shadow creep up on her, and then, on instinct, she quickly turned heel and faced whatever was creeping up behind her!  She noticed that it was Laren himself lunging towards her!  She dodged just barely, and then she leapt back, alarmed at what had happened!

 

                “Hey, what’s the big idea!?  I thought you had saved me, now you want to kill me!?” she exclaimed!  Laren’s face was stoic and stern, making it hard for her to read his response.  He simply lunged again, at lightning fast speed, and he made Zaria trip, but she quickly regained herself as she performed a cartwheel to regain her balance!  Upon landing back on her feet, she saw that Laren had leapt up high and was about to slam down on her from above!  Within just a split of a second, Laren came down, and Zaria again barely dodged the attack!  She leapt back quite a distance to ensure she’d at least have some kind of gab between herself and the mysterious Dragoon!

 

                “What the hell!?  Am I going to have to kill you now!?” she asked, but immediately regretted uttering those words.  Fighting against a Dragoon was a fine way to get oneself killed, considering their insanely good skills with a lance!  Laren simply walked towards her, and then he vanished without a trace!  Within a few seconds, he was behind her, but she was immediately alerted to his presence, and she dodged a lance attack that would have otherwise skewered her!  Zaria was about to say something quite foul, when Laren raised his hand and opened his palm, signaling her to be silent!  He then put his helmet back on, and he seemed to be…amused?  Again, his serious face definitely did a good job of hiding his facial cues!

(End Song Here)

 

                “Okay…what the hell was that for just now?” Zaria exclaimed, demanding an explanation!  Laren then turned and looked at the abyss once more before walking towards her.  She stood back a few steps, wary about what he would do.  He simply looked at her and stabbed his lance on the ground.

 

                “Well, for one thing, you aren’t an ordinary traveler.  You’re a mercenary.  I can tell you have good fighting skills, and of all the normal humans I’ve come upon, all of them have been either dead or critically injured when faced with a Shadow Blight.  The fact that you took one on with no fear, and with barely a scratch indicates you aren’t a normal human.  You have an experienced look on your face. That, and the fact that you look like the type of person that carries out any job, I assumed you were a mercenary.  I merely wanted to test you out to see if my theory proved true.” Laren explained, leaving a shocked Zaria speechless!

 

                “W-what!? Who the hell tests people out by downright trying to kill them!?” Zaria yelled!

 

                “Well, you aren’t dead, right?” Laren asked. Zaria was about to protest, but she stopped herself.  He did have a fair point.  But still, it was beyond wrong for him to have approached her in such a way!

 

                “Look, just get to the point! Yeah, I’m a mercenary, what’s it to you?” she asked, now acting hostile.  Laren shook his head and shrugged.

 

                “It’s surprising how quickly a woman’s mood can change with the situation.  Very interesting…” he replied.

 

                “Hey, don’t you start!  Answer my question!” Zaria asked again, her foot tapping on the ground, her arms crossed!

 

                “Well, there are many things happening to the world right about now.  Whether you know about them or not isn’t my concern.  What matters is that things are getting worse, and I need all the help I can get.” he answered.  “In other words, I want to hire you to work for me. Your service is required, and I require you to lend a hand in this current situation.  A warrior of your skill that isn’t blessed with the power of the four clans is hard to come by.  So, what do you say?” he asked, as if everything that transpired just a few moments ago hadn’t happened at all!

 

                “And what makes you think I’d work for you after all that just happened just now!?” Zaria asked.  Laren then reached into a pouch he had on his right leg.  From the pouch, he took out numerous gold coins.

 

                “I think this would be enough reason.  This, right here, is 1000 okane in gold coins. If you decide to lend me your services, I’ll give you an overall amount of 8000.  That should set you up for a while. Now then, are you interested in the job?” he asked.  Zaria looked at the gold coins in his hand.  She inspected them, and saw that they were quiet legit!  She gave him a hard stare, and then she gave out a sigh.

 

                “Well…okay, I’ll take your money!  And I’ll be taking the job…don’t think I’ve forgotten what you made me go through!” she hissed!  Laren managed himself a small chuckle, and he merely shrugged, handing over the 1000 Okane to her.

 

                “Hmph, in the short time we’ve known each other, we’ve already created memories.  Isn’t it sweet?” he asked sarcastically.  This made Zaria blush hard, and she stuttered before managing to speak up a coherent sentence!

 

                “Memories, my ass!  More like a traumatizing moment than anything! You could’ve just easily asked if I was a mercenary without having to attack me!” she exclaimed!

 

                “Well, you seemed in a hurry, and you seemed like you wanted to go unnoticed.  You wouldn’t have told me if you were a mercenary if I had asked you, so I opted to attack instead of ask.” Laren replied flatly, with no emotion in his voice.  This just managed to annoy Zaria even more!  But he was right, though! She probably wouldn’t have answered him if he had asked her downright. So he was smart about this!

 

                “Anyways, you’re my client now, and I do intend to get those 8000 Okane, so we’re going to stick together…” Zaria said, though she was glaring at Laren.  The glare seemed to have no effect, as the Dragoon simply looked up at the sky and then drew his lance from the ground!

 

                “In any case, I have to report this to Saphira.  You’re coming with me.” Laren said.

 

                “You mean to Stormpeak Fortress?” Zaria asked.

 

                “Indeed.” he said, then wrapping his right arm around Zaria’s waist.  She blushed at how sudden this had happened, and she looked up at him, as he looked up at the sky!

 

                “H-hey, what’s the big idea?” she asked.  Laren looked down at her with a confused face.

 

                “Well, if I don’t hold you close, once I jump towards the sky, your body will likely disjoint itself. Don’t want my mercenary to die on me without even doing her job, am I right?” he asked.  Zaria’s face turned white, and she gasped slightly when she realized what their method of travel was going to be.

 

                “Y-you mean…we’re gonna….” she started.

 

                “That’s correct!” Laren answered for her, then holding her close and propelling them both like a rocket towards the sky!  Zaria screamed as she felt the gargantuan force of the wind on her face, while Laren remained cool and casual!

 

                “Figures this would be how we’d travel…he’s a Dragoon, of course he’ll jump towards the sky like a bolt of lightning!  W-what am I getting myself into!?” she asked herself, as she felt like throwing up! Laren felt her discomfort, and he frowned and looked at her.

 

                “Don’t you dare throw up on my armor.” he enunciated! The look on his face, even though he bore his mask, was enough to make Zaria hold her vomit for the sake of not provoking this man’s anger!

 

                “Seriously, what the hell am I getting myself into!?”

 

------------------------------------------------------------

 

After the battle with the Shadow Blight, Laren hires Zaria to help him with the current situation revolving around the world!  What is Zaria getting herself into? Will she be able to carry out her mission and be able to get her pay? And what of these strange occurrences befalling the world? Will they get worse with time?  Stay tuned for Chapter Six: “A Plan Of Action!”

 

Okay, that was the chapter, everyone!  I hope you all enjoyed it! Gahhh, I’m really enjoying making this story, it’s all coming along so neat and great!  I hope I’m keeping you all interested in my latest creation! Don’t worry, it only gets better as time goes on! Be sure to stick around for more chapters!  Thank you all for your love and support, and be sure to comment on what you thought of tonight’s chapter, as always!  So then, until next time everyone, see you around for the next chapter! :D

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To KHLegendIII, yep, that's the way things are! Just wait till you see the story as it comes along! :3

 

Hey there everyone, how’s it going!? I hope that you’re all doing okay, and that you’re all having a fine evening! So then, here’s another chapter of my story! Let’s see what happens to Zaria, now that she’s been hired by Laren to work for him! Enjoy!

 

Chapter Six: A Plan Of Action

 

                Zaria was in the lobby of Stormpeak Fortress, and she had a small, paper bag that one of the guards there had given to her!  She had been barfing, for that trip with Laren across the skies definitely took a toll on her stomach! For the life of her, she couldn’t even begin to imagine how the heck the Dragoons could be able to tolerate such speed and force against the wind! But well, she guessed that’s why they were Stormtracers.  Their abilities, the ones they had must have allowed them to tolerate such impossible feats of travelling!  But right now, she wasn’t thinking about that.  She was thinking about how her stomach was in knot, and she barfed yet again!  A woman across the hall had been looking at her for a while now, and she had an amused smile on her face!  She had short, black hair, was caramel skinned, and had purple eyes.  She had clothing that resembled Dragoon armor, but at the same time looked like a piece of casual wear.  The clothing adjusted to the woman’s body appropriately, showing her to be a woman of slender, yet round figure!  She had silver gauntlets on her hands, and she had her arms crossed.  Zaria looked at the woman and raised an eyebrow.

 

                “What?  You’re there looking at me to mock me?” Zaria asked, a little weak from all the vomiting. The woman let out a chuckle, and she waved her hand dismissively.

 

                “No, not at all!  It’s just curious seeing your reaction! I mean, I remember my first time when I used the power of the Dragoon to travel.  It was a hot mess, I tell you, not a pretty sight to see…” the woman mentioned.  At that, Zaria perked herself up!

 

                “Wait, you mean you felt sick to your stomach, too? I thought that was just me!” Zaria said, surprised!  The woman looked at her and put her hands on her hips.

 

                “Well, just because we Stormtracers have powers doesn’t mean that we don’t have weak stomachs!  But yes, I went through the same thing you’re going through now. But well, if Laren hired you, then you’ll get used to the Dragoon’s way of traveling in no time!” the woman said cheerfully!  “Ooh, by the way, name’s Tatsumaki, Laren’s right hand woman!” she said, outstretching her hand. Zaria took it and shook it, and gave a smile.

 

                “I’m Zaria Horosha, nice to meet you!” she replied, and the two gave each other friendly smiles.  Looks like Zaria had already made a friend in here! It felt nice!  Before they could keep conversing, Laren showed himself into the lobby, and he looked at the two of them before speaking.

 

                “Saphira will see you now.  You come too, Tatsumaki.” he said, as he then turned around and walked towards a door that lead to a hallway.  It then led to a staircase, which in turn, led to an upper floor.  Once up, Zaria followed Laren and Tatsumaki to what seemed to be a large balcony!  On the far right, the woman Zaria assumed to be Saphira was standing, her arms holding onto the rails of the balcony, as her gaze seemed fixed on the horizon!

 

                “Saphira, here’s the woman I came upon along the road.” Laren said.  He stood behind Zaria, and Tatsumaki walked towards the wall that was between the balcony and the inside, and she leaned her back onto it.  Zaria said nothing, and she waited for Saphira to turn around.  When she did, she saw that the woman’s face seemed troubled.  And from the look on her face, it looked like she hadn’t been able to sleep.

 

                “So, you’re the mercenary that Laren found? Zaria, is it?” she asked.

 

                “That’s right, ma’am. At your service.” Zaria said dutifully.  Saphira walked towards her and walked around her, as if examining her. 

 

                “Hmm, I see why  you hired her.  She does look like she has a warrior’s build.  Anyways, I’m sure that Laren told you what is going on.” Saphira said.  Zaria nodded.

 

                “Yeah, I get the gist of it.  These Shadow Blights, as you call them, are spreading across the world, and these mysterious abysses keep appearing all over the world, with no real rhyme or reason why. I don’t know more about it, since I’m not too involved in what happens around the world. Heck, I’ve only been to a few cities at a time, so I haven’t really don’t much traveling.  But these days, I could tell that something was up based on how the people were acting.” Zaria said.

 

                “The people?” Saphira asked, as her eyes became fixated on Zaria.  “What of the people?”

 

                “Well, they seem to be anxious, and the whole thing about those dark creatures appearing has them spooked. Can’t say I blame em, though. Those things are pretty darn rough, and a pain in the ass…” Zaria answered.  Saphira remained silent for a moment, and she looked at Laren, and then Tatsumaki.  Both Dragoons remained quiet.

 

                “Um, ma’am? Is something wrong?” Zaria asked.  Saphira shook her head.

 

                “No, no….it’s nothing.  I was just remembering something, but don’t worry, it’s nothing important to the current matter.  Anyways, I’ll appreciate you helping out Laren and Tatsumaki with all these abyss appearances, and in the eliminating of the Shadow Blights. We’ll appreciate your services very much, and we’ll pay you the promised amount after the job is done.” Saphira explained.  Zaria nodded.

 

                “Right.  Well, when do I start?” she asked.

 

                “Tomorrow morning.  For now, you should rest.  Battling the Shadow Blight and then traveling here via the Dragoon’s power must no doubt have you strained.  Eat and rest, and tomorrow morning, you start with your duty.  Laren will keep you on the up and up on things. Again, thank you for your services!” Saphira said as she bowed her head.  Zaria smiled and raised her fist in determination!

 

                “Right!  Thanks for the hospitality! I’m gonna help myself to some food!” Zaria said!  Saphira smiled.

 

                “Indeed.  Tatsumaki, take Zaria to the dining room, see to it she gets a good meal!” she stated. Tatsumaki gave her a thumbs up!

 

                “No probs, boss! Come on Zaria, let’s see what the cooks have on today’s menu!” she said as she took Zaria by the arm and walked her off the balcony.  As the two walked away, Laren remained alone with Saphira. There was a grim air about them.

 

(Start Song Here)

                “You were going to tell her about the Wraith’s warning, weren’t you?” Laren asked. 

 

                “…For a moment, yes.  I did feel that I should tell her.  And she does seem like the type of person who’s capable of understanding dire situations…but even the Wraith’s omen is too much.  It’s best that she thinks of this whole job of hers as something that needs to be done.  If we put pressure on her, it might not end well for us.  We need to keep people in the dark concerning the larger threat that looms. We can’t let the world stumble into a panic…” she explained.

 

                “All due respect, Saphira, I know that you mean well, you want to protect the world from knowing the grim truth of its end.  But how long do you think that the people will remain unknown about the situation? It’s only a matter of time till they find out for themselves…” Laren spoke aloud. If there was one thing Saphira respected about this man, it was that he wasn’t afraid of speaking his thoughts whenever the need rose. He always debated her choices, he always challenged them, and that proved to be something that complemented Saphira’s persona. Her strength as a leader was in due thanks to Laren’s words of advice, and words of caution!  She looked at him with a sad smile, and then she looked towards the horizon again.

 

                “I don’t know, Laren…I don’t know how long this can keep up…we’ll see what happens. Hopefully, things will be resolved in due time.” she answered.  Laren bowed his head.

 

                “Right.  Then, I’ll be taking my leave.” he said, as he then left Saphira alone.  She looked onward to the horizon in silence, her thoughts being drifted by the wind…

(End Song Here)

 

---

 

                Meanwhile, Beriel and Ellene were in Tribal City. They had arrived a short time ago, and they were looking around the city, taking in the sights and shopping for supplies. They completely blended in with the crowd, and they made it so that the guards never even thought to look their way! To the naked eye, these two appeared to be nothing more than two travelers passing through.  They walked through the city, and after eating, they went towards the far reaches of the city, where people less often walked.  They made sure they weren’t being followed, and then they proceeded to walk through an abandoned living complex.  No doubt this area had been ravaged by Shadow Blights, considering the bad shape the abandoned homes were in.  They then stopped when they approached a small, wooden shack.  Ellene opened the door, and the two of them went in.  The shack inside was lit by three candles, therefore the rest of the shack was cast in shadow.  They pulled up two chairs and sat down near a small, round table. Beriel tapped his fingers on the table, and Ellene crossed her arms and her legs as well, as they waited.

 

                “I wonder that’s taking them so long?” Beriel asked, as he looked at the moon, as it slowly rose in the night sky.

 

                “Heck if I know.  But I’m sure they’ll be here soon enough.  We’ve already come, we can wait a few more minutes.” Ellene answered, her face looking bored, her eyes looking towards the dark ceiling above.

 

                “Hmph.  Well, now that things have been set in motion, let’s hope that things go according to plan.” the gentleman said, as he stroked his beard in thought.

 

                “Well, after all this time of careful planning, I’m sure that things will go our way.  We just have to be patient and see how things unfold. The clans will no doubt be butting heads soon enough.” Ellene said, as she then stood up, arms crossed, and began pacing.

 

                “And after all this hard work, we’ll get our just reward. I find it only fitting that we be repaid for the work we’ve done in ensuring that this whole situation with the world comes to pass…” Beriel continued, keeping the conversation flowing.  Soon enough, a certain part of the room seemed to look strange to him.  After closer inspection, he noticed that the darkness seemed to be floating.  At that, he smiled.

 

                “Ah, Lucilda, it looks like you’ve come.  That’s good! Where’s the Master?” he asked.  Lucilda, covered in darkness, only her eyes beaming through, glared at him.

 

                “Shut up, old man. The mere sight of you sets a fire in my soul…I want nothing more than to sink you into the ground…” she said through gritted teeth! Beriel couldn’t help but let out a hearty laugh!

 

                “Ha, never in my years of life have I been talked to in such a way! But I suppose, this is how you show your feelings to others, don’t you, Lucilda? It’s understandable. Heh, you always amuse me.” he said casually, which only caused Lucilda to glare at him even more!

 

                “You little…” she whispered, about to outstretch her arm, when she stopped cold!  She looked over her shoulder, and she immediately knew that the Master had come.  She bowed, Beriel noticing the shadows covering her body bend.  With that, he knew that the Master had come, and he and Ellene bowed as well.

 

                “Master, you’ve arrived.” Ellen said.

 

(Start Song Here)

                “There’s no need for you to bow. I’ve said this plenty of times. I’m no much more superior to any of you than any of you are to me.  We are equals.” the one known as the Master said.  His voice seemed distorted and sounded demonic, so none of them could tell how his real voice sounded like! “Please, rise!” he said, and the others stood up.

 

                “Sorry, Master, it’s just instinct kicking in!” Ellene mentioned.

 

                “Well, then let me assure you, no bowing is needed.  Just the fact that we’re working together is enough.  So then, what have you all to report?” the Master asked.  Beriel stepped forward and put his hand on his chest, and then put his hands behind his back.

 

                “Well Master, on my front, I’ve been observing Vincent and the Scorched, and they’ve been mobilizing, slowly but surely.  Vincent doesn’t want to conflict with the other clans, so he’s taking things with a cautionary air. But there’s no doubt he plans to make change.  Just so long as no one gets in his way, he thinks he can be able to resolve things without conflict.  But, knowing the other clans, I’m sure that conflict will make its way to him eventually.  My offer to him still stands. Whether he chooses to accept it or not lies within him to decide.  But in general, things are progressing smoothly on my side of things.” the gentleman explained.

 

                “I see.  Good work.  Keep observing Vincent, he’s one to keep track of…” the Master said. “Anything else?” he asked.  This time, Ellene stepped forward, and she stood firm, like a soldier!

 

                “The Craftsmen seem to be having a quarrel within their own ranks.  Apparnetly, their leader Eros is being stubborn when it comes to the handling of the latest situation, and he’s trying very hard to keep the details on the world’s inevitable fate to himself, so that the public doesn’t catch wind of it. It’s only a matter of time before his people know, though. And with everything else happening around the world, people will start asking questions!  There also seems to have been a stop in construction activity in various parts of the world.  So the Craftsmen are sorting things out, but seeing as how they’re all a stubborn people, their quarreling won’t get them anywhere.” she said.

 

                “Ah, then the Craftsmen stopping their constructions will no doubt cause a stop in projects around the world…and thus the ensuing conflict with the other clans will no doubt lead them to craft new weapons of war.  Excellent…keep vigilant on their activities…” the Master said, complimenting Ellene. “And you, Lucilda? What have you seen?” he asked.  Lucilda shifted in the shadows, and her eyes steered towards him.

 

                “The Dragoons are going all around the world, investigating all the occurrences happening because of the Shadow Blights…they’re noticing the appearance of the abysses, and they’re reporting their findings to Saphira. She seems to be the most level headed one in all this.  She’s tough to break…but I can remedy that, Master…” she said with malice in her voice.

 

                “No…you are not to interact with Saphira under any circumstances.  At least, not at the moment.  Remember that our goal for now is to observe…you’d be wise to restrain yourself.” the Master scolded, apparently managing to silence her! Lucilda only ever behaved whenever the Master was around.  He was the only one that seemed to soothe her, for some reason!

 

                “Yes, um, sorry Master…I sometimes let myself get carried away…” Lucilda whispered, acting like a child!

 

                “Well, in any case, you’ve all done well.  You’ve been vigilant, and so far, everything is going according to plan. Soon, the clans will no doubt be at each other’s throats.  At that point, the darkness will keep spreading, and before they realize what’s happening, they’ll drown themselves in their own bickering…and we can finally have what is ours…” the Master said, the others smiling at his words. “Ever since we started this endeavor, I’ve told you all what awaits at the end…and as long as you stick by my side, we will obtain this dream…we will obtain our goals! That much I promise you!” he said, inspiring confidence and certainty to the others!

 

                “And what about you, Master? How are things on your end?” Ellene asked.

 

                “Ilia certainly has her hands full, that much is certain.  She’s desperately trying to find a way to ensure that all the clans can see eye to eye.  She’s stressing over how to do so, and she’s been locked in her room for the past few days. The Everbloom Knights are tightening up security around Eternia Glade, and they’re keeping a watch for anyone that crosses into their borders. They’re definitely alert! Within a few days, I suspect that the clan heads will gather at the Sanctum once more. That is when things will take their determined turn…so yes, everything is proceeding smoothly on my end.” the Master explained.

 

                “So then, you all know what to do.  Let’s get back to our jobs…meeting adjourned.” the Master spoke, and with that, he seemed to have left, for Lucilda didn’t feel his presence anymore.

                “Until then, ingrates!” she spat, glaring at Beriel in particular before vaporizing into thin air!

 

                “Huh, well she’s a wild one…anyways, I’m off, Beriel.  I’ll be seeing you.” Ellene said, as she opened the door.  Beriel nodded.

 

                “Until then, my lady.” he bowed courteously, as Ellene left, and he was the only one remaining in the room.  He looked out the window and saw the moon shining high up in the sky!  He clenched his fists, as if he had remembered something, and his face looked grim.

 

                “I will obtain my just reward…” he thought to himself, as he then went out the door and disappeared into the darkness of the night…

(End Song Here)

---

 

                As the sun rose, Zaria awakened to a chill in her spine!  Her teeth clattered, and she curled herself up into a ball!  When she groggily opened her eyes, she noticed that she had no blanket on.  When she looked below her, she saw Tatsumaki standing, holding the blanket Zaria had enveloped herself in!

 

                “I-it’s cold…give me my blanket back!” Zaria struggled, trying to reach out, but quickly curling into a ball again because of the cold. Tatsumaki giggled and waved the blanket in front of her.

 

                “Well, too bad Zaria, but remember, your first day working for Laren has begun, so you have to get out of bed and get ready!” she said, as she then walked away, leaving a helpless Zaria to fend herself from the cold entering through the window!

 

                “Ugh, for the love of everything that’s holy…” Zaria said through gritted teeth, as she stood up and immediately went towards the closet, where she took out some traveling gear from her backpack!  She quickly changed into her mercenary getup, and when she went out of the closet, she felt much better, since her gear was protecting her from the cold!  She now had a gray leather jacket, with small, golden bracelets adorning her wrists, and a black, short sleeved shirt beneath her jacket.  She bore long, black leather pants, and she put on her boots, and with her knife in its sheath, and with her backpack strapped to her back, she was ready to take on the day!  A few minutes later, Tatsumaki came in, and Zaria slapped the back of her head, to which Tatsumaki replied with a surprised groan!

 

                “Ouch!  Hey, what was that for!?” Tatsumaki asked, shocked!

 

                “That’s for leaving me in the cold!!!” Zaria replied with stern glare and pout! “Anyways, I’m all ready to go!” she said, relaxing herself and giving Tatsumaki a smile! “I’ll eat along the way, so that way, we can already get things started!”

 

                “Huh, well that’s efficient! Glad to hear you’re ready!” Tatsumaki said.  A few seconds later, Laren came in, without his helmet, bearing his usually stern face.  He looked at the two women, and then he eyed Zaria over.

 

                “Well, it seems you are ready.  Then we can go underway?” he asked.

 

                “Of course, Mr. Smiles-a-lot, I am most definitely ready!” Zaria bowed mockingly, causing Tatsumaki to snicker and cover her mouth, trying to hold in a laugh! Laren remained unamused.

 

                “Well then, before we begin, I have something for you.” he motioned.  Zaria hadn’t noticed that he was holding something in his left hand. Something quite large, now that she noticed!

 

                “What is it?” she asked, as Laren handed over the package to her.  She inspected it and began to open it.

 

                “A sword for you to take along our journey.  It’s quite a proficient blade, and though it may not look like much, it’s as mighty as any dragon’s scales!  You’d be wise to keep it on you. It was crafted by the Craftsmen, though I did add in some minor tweaks.  It should serve you well.” he mentioned.  Zaria opened up the packaging, and saw the beautiful sword that lay beneath it all.  It was in a brown sheath, and she noticed that the hilt was a silver color.  When she pulled the sword out of its sheath, she saw it shining with great splendor!  It was a long, silver blade, with carvings at the center of the blade that crawled up till the tip! The carvings looked like flames reaching up to the sky! Right where the hilt met the blade, there was a dragon head emblazoned, and she could feel the heavy yet light sensation that came from holding the sword!  She swung it a few times and then thrust the air a few times for good measure!  She smirked and put the sword on its sheath, and then she strapped it onto her thigh, ensuring the belt holding the sheath would remain around her waist, well tightened up!

 

                “Well, thank you for the present!” Zaria said as she bowed.  Laren nodded.

 

                “Now then, let us make way.  We can’t afford to lose any time…” he said, as he then proceeded to walk towards the same place where Zaria had talked to Saphira just yesterday!  Tatsumaki followed behind, and the two of them prepared themselves to launch into the air!  Zaria sighed and then held on to Laren.

 

                “Yeah, yeah,  I know, I’ve got to get used to it! No need to remind me!” Zaria spoke, as if she had read Laren’s mind!  He held her close, and then, within seconds, Laren and Tatsumaki propelled themselves into the air, traveling at blazing fast speeds!  Again, Zaria couldn’t help but want to vomit, but she had to keep it together!

 

                “How long can this trip be? I mean, it’s not like it’s going to take us forever to get wherever we need to go, right?” Zaria thought to herself, and then she opened her eyes wide! 

 

                “Wait, where are we going exactly!?” Zaria asked aloud, her voice about to break due to the desire to vomit!  Tatsumaki glanced over her shoulder at her and smiled.

 

                “We’re going to World’s Edge! It’ll take us about an hour, even with our speed of travel!” she answered.  At that, Zaria’s jaw dropped, and she despaired griefly!

 

                “An hour!?  Good God, no!!!” Zaria exclaimed, as the trio continued traveling across the land!

 

                And exactly an hour later, the trio arrived at their destination, and when they finally landed upon a flat piece of land, Zaria shook a frail breath out of herself!  She was pale, sickly looking, and she looked as if she would fall dead any moment!  She kissed the ground three times and then laid face first, dazed and sick to her stomach!

 

                “Oh, sweet land, I will never take you for granted again!” she said in a muffled voice. Tatsumaki giggled, while Laren remained with arms crossed, unamused.  Zaria then stood up, and feeling much better, she saw her surroundings.  They were in an open field, but it didn’t have much of anything.  There were barely any trees at all, and the grass was really short.  When she looked to the horizon, she noticed that the open field seem to slightly descend, and she felt curious as to what lay going further down.

 

                “Come on, let’s get to it…” Laren said, as he walked ahead of the two women!  Tatsumaki followed, and Zaria kept herself close to them at all times!

 

(Start Song Here)

                As they descended, Zaria noticed that the environment around her was looking ever more lifeless!  Where she had seen trees, now she only saw boulders, and further along down, she saw something that disturbed her!  It seemed as though a chunk of land had been vanished from existence!  The way it looked indicated that it was frozen in time! At least, that’s how she saw it!  The land then proceeding to reveal itself as they kept going down showed the same appearance!  It came to a point that the open field stretched out into scattered fragments, and further than that, she could only see swirls of blue energy slowly floating towards a giant, purple orb far across the horizon, where no land lay!  She stopped cold, and she noticed that Laren and Tatsumaki had stopped as well.  She looked at them, and Tatsumaki had a serious face.  Laren kept himself with his arms crossed, and they saw the grimness before them…

 

                “So this is literally the World’s Edge? I figured that was just a metaphoric name or something…” Zaria asked, still not believing the sight she was seeing.  “What happened here…?”

 

                “Well, do you know the story of the Calamity?” Tatsumaki asked.  Zaria nodded.

 

                “Yes, I’ve heard it a few times before…about how the world fell into chaos due to corruption and endless wars, causing the people of this planet to destroy themselves.  It brought about the apocalypse, right?” she asked, verifying to see if her information was accurate.  Tatsumaki nodded in confirmation.

 

                “Yep…well, this is the part of the world that got torn away by the darkness the Calamity left behind in its wake…to imagine that so many lives, so many towns and cities, were reduced to nothingness…it’s a pretty grim thing to think about…” she expressed.

 

                “And not just that…with each passing day, that dark orb in the horizon continues to slowly eat away at the planet’s core…therefore taking a little bit more of land.  It’s a slow process, but the effects show…” Laren pointed out, taking a small pebble that was floating in the air, then proceeding to crush it in his fist. “And not to mention that the Wraith’s foreboding makes this place that much more dangerous…the darkness will no doubt come from here, where it’s in its strongest element…” he thought to himself, as he observed the giant dark orb swirling in the distance.

 

                “So remind me again, why are we here?  Weren’t we supposed to investigate the abysses that keep appearing around the world?” Zaria asked.

 

                “That’s just the thing!  You see, whenever an abyss appears, it’s a sign that this place, the World’s Edge, is working its magic…when an abyss appears, it means that it’ll only be a matter of time before that part of the world gets swallowed by the darkness. And this place also happens to be where the Shadow Blights come from…” Tatsumaki explained.

 

                “Well, haven’t you tried to destroy that orb?” Zaria asked.

 

                “The attempt has been done before, but with little success.  All troops from all the clans even joined forces at one point, in order to march towards the dark orb.  But setting foot towards the darkness ends your life…so no one has been able to reach towards the dark orb, and no one probably will…the best we can manage it monitor the orb’s activity, and hope that the clan heads figure out a way to stop this dark orb from advancing…if there’s no way to destroy it, then it’ll only be a matter of time before this world comes to an end…” Laren said.  “Not to mention the inevitable darkness that will come, either way…it’s either the World’s Edge, or it’s the darkness…” he thought to himself.

 

                Suddenly, the ground trembled!  Tatsumaki immediately caught on to what was going on, and she pulled Laren from where he was!  A few seconds later, the place he had been standing on vanished, swallowed by the darkness!

 

                “We have to go back!” Tatsumaki shouted, and so, the trio ran up the open field, and when they were a safe distance away, they saw that a huge chunk of land had been vaporized, consumed by the darkness, the remains turning into swirls of blue energy that fed the orb!  Zaria saw how powerful the darkness was, and she honestly felt a little overwhelmed by it all!

(End Song Here)

 

                “There’s much at stake…and we don’t have enough time…” Laren mentioned.  Zaria was about to say something when, out of the blue, dark orbs appeared everywhere! From said dark orbs, creatures emerged, of many different kinds!  Some were eagles, others were wolves, and others were rams! They all had sinister red eyes and eerie black aura emanating from them!

 

(Start Song Here)

                “The Shadow Blights!” Tatsumaki shouted!

 

                “Prepare for battle!” Laren commanded!

 

                “R-right!” Zaria said, as the three drew their weapons and took stance!

 

                As soon as the Shadow Blights closed in, the battle began in earnest! Laren darted through the battlefield, dispatching the wolves effortlessly!  He swung his lance at them, and he used it to propel himself from foe to foe, landing quick thrusts and fatal stabs to all enemies in his vicinity!  Tatsumaki ran towards the field, and then she leapt high up into the air, and with her halberd, she swung at the eagles that were trying to swoop down on her!  She blocked many of their pecks, and then she flicked them off by swinging her halberd in a wide arc, slaying many of the eagles at once!  Zaria put it upon herself to take care of the rams!  Many were stampeding towards her, and she knew she had to improvise, and quickly!  And so, she ran towards the crowd of rams, and then she leapt up and quickly struck one down, stabbing the sword in its eye, causing it to roll over, the others falling in a domino effect!  Before they could even recover, Zaria carved through them as fast as she could, slashing through the ranks and beheading a few of the rams!  Many of them charged at her, and they were very close to piercing their horns through her!  But she managed to block their attacks and counterattack with swift swordsmanship!  The trio held the Shadow Blights at bay pretty effectively!

 

                “This isn’t good, Laren! Many more are appearing!” Tatsumaki shouted, landing near him! Laren darted through some wolves and then landed right behind her!

 

                “It’s worse than I thought…much worse!” he said, as he jumped over Tatsumaki and thrust his lance into a particularly hungry wolf, making it drop dead on the ground in seconds! Zaria soon joined them, and the three stood back to back, facing the horde of Shadow Blights that was now surrounding them!  As the hellish creatures charged, they bore their feral might!  The wolves bore their claws, the eagles swooped down and used their beaks, and the rams charged through like a battering ram, all attempting to subdue the pinned trio!  They were finding it difficult to fend off the Shadow Blights, for it seemed they were too strong!

 

                “I’ve had enough of this…” Laren said, and with that, he leapt high up into the air, and then, he placed his arm in front of him, opening his palm! From the palm, a small gust of wind formed, and then it rapidly grew until it formed many slashes of wind, which then turned into giant, swirling tornadoes!  He placed them downward, making a wind barrier between the Shadow Blights and themselves, providing a good defense!  He landed on the ground, and then he nodded to Tatsumaki!

 

                “Guess it’s my show now!” she said, as she swung her halberd upward!  From the halberd’s tip, sparks of electricity began to sparkle to life!  Within seconds, her whole halberd was covered in electrical energy!  “Take this, shadow scum!” she shouted, as she flung her halberd down, causing a rain of lightning to plummet down upon the Shadow Blights, causing them to fall by the dozens!  The eagles were completely wiped out, and the wolves were starting to be fewer in number!  Zaria saw that there were still a great number of them, along with the rams!  Even though the wind barrier was protecting them, it’d only be a matter of time until the creatures would eventually break through!  Their violent eyes and ravenous growls were increasing, indicating their primal desire to kill!

 

                “This is bad…” she thought to herself.  She looked at Laren, who was keeping the wind barrier up, and then she looked at Tatsumaki, who was charging up another lightning barrage!  Zaria snapped her fingers, for an idea came to her!

 

                “Guys, follow my lead!” Zaria shouted!  Laren and Tatsumaki turned their attention towards her, and they saw her push herself out of the wind barrier!

 

                “What!? Are you mad!?” Laren exclaimed!

 

                “Just follow my lead!” Zaria shouted again!  As soon as she got out, she made a run for it!  She took down many a foe with her sword, but she made sure not to linger too long!  Soon, the wolves and rams started to trail Zaria, all of them clustering up together, trying to get at her!

 

                “Oh, I see what she’s up to! How clever!” Tatsumaki remarked.  Laren soon realized this, and he shook his head.

 

                “The way she’s going about it is reckless, however…come on, let’s get close to her before she gets hurt!” Laren said, as they both zoomed towards the horde of Shadow Blights!  Zaria kept running, and the creatures were gaining on her!  She glanced back and smirked.

 

                “That’s right, just a bit closer…” she thought.  She kept running until she eventually came upon a small bed of water.  It was shallow enough that the water only reached to her feet!  The expanse was wide, and soon, the creatures followed, all of them now surrounding Zaria dangerously close!  She then looked to Laren and Tatsunaki, and then nodded at them!

 

                “Now!” Zaria shouted!  Tatsumaki ran forward, and then, she cast down her lightning rain!  Zaria pushed through the hordes of Shadow Blights and got out of the water, but the creatures did not, and as soon as the lightning struck them, they were electrocute and paralyzed!  The creatures were now helpless!  Laren then stood forward, and he swung his lance in circles numerous times, increasing the speed of his swings until he formed a giant gust of wind! A controllable tornado!  He aimed it at the clustered group of Shadow Blights, and once the tornado pulled them in, their fate was sealed!  They faded away by the second, until none remained!  No other Shadow Blights came to replace the ones that had fallen, so Zaria assumed they had gained a victory!

(End Song Here)

 

                “Whoo, well that was something, wasn’t it?” she asked.  Tatsumaki giggled and put her hand on Zaria’s shoulder. 

 

                “That was some clever thinking!  The water, the lightning and the wind!  You used the elements to your advantage! You’re quite the strategist, aren’t you?” she asked.  Zaria shrugged.

 

                “Well, in my line of work, I have to have a strategy ready, you know what I’m saying?” she replied.  Laren walked towards the two and looked around, noticing that not a single Shadow Blight had remained.

 

                “Very impressive…anyways, we should get a move on now…we’ve already seen that a bit more of land has been swallowed by the darkness, and if we linger here too long, it won’t be long until more Shadow Blights come.  So let’s move…” he said.

 

                “Yeah, we should probably go.” Tatsumaki agreed.

 

                “Right, then let’s get to it!” Zaria said.  And so, Zaria held on to Laren, and then, the three of them propelled through the sky! 

 

                Little did they know that someone had been watching them fight this whole time…

 

                “Excellent…most excellent…”

 

----------------------------------------------

 

And so, Zaria has begun working for Laren. Will she be able to do her job? How long will Zaria remain unaware of the bigger threat enveloping the world? Can the darkness that’s slowly consuming the world be stopped?  What is happening to the clans?  Be sure to stick around for Chapter Seven: “A State Of Unrest…”

 

Well everyone, that was another chapter! I hope you all enjoyed it!  Sorry it took a bit, I’ve been busy these days, and well, since 2.8 came out, haha, I’ve been hyped up playing through the games the collection offers! I started Dream Drop Distance HD today!  Anyways, thank you for your patience and support, and I hope you keep reading this story! Let me know what you thought of this chapter, and as always, see you around for the next one! :D

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To KHLegendIII, thanks, I'm glad you found it interesting! X3

 

To Sarrin, lol, party noise. xD

 

Good evening everyone, I hope that you’re all having a fine night! So then, here is another chapter of my story! We’re already seven chapters in, can you believe it? I hope that you’ve all been enjoying yourselves with my latest creation! I’m doing my best to ensure that it’s an enjoyable experience for you all! Thanks for taking the time to read my creation!  Anyways, I won’t keep you any longer, so go on to reading, my loyal followers! :D

 

Chapter Seven: A State Of Unrest

 

                Many days had passed, and things got worse.  Shadow Blight sightings were constant now, and with each passing day, more abysses appeared all over the world, expanding slowly but surely!  The people of the world started to notice these changes, and naturally, they began to question their leaders. They wanted to know what was going on!  Too much was happening all at once, and it was scaring everyone!  The clan leaders were now in a state of unrest, not knowing how to issue this situation, and whether or not they should tell the public the true nature of their world’s current predicament! And so, to settle this and what direction would be taken, the clan leaders decided upon another meeting.  The meeting had been announced  a few days prior, so the leaders had time to sort things out in their respective countries before heading over to the Sanctum!

 

                For each clan leader that arrived, many soldiers followed behind, followed by wandering travelers and concerned citizens of their respective cities!  They were all outside the Sanctum, and they were all anxious, hoping that the meeting of the clans would bode well.  Ilia, as usual, was the first to show up.  She seemed quite the worse for wear, and she looked like she hadn’t had a good night’s rest in quite some time!  But even with depression clearly apparent in her eyes, she still managed to smile at the people as she passed by. The Oracle was accompanying her, and as always, he remained in his hood, where no one would ever see his face…

 

                A few minutes later, and Eros was the second to show up.  He seemed to be quite irritated, and he didn’t look at all like he was enthusiastic for this latest clan meeting.  He walked past everyone, and he didn’t seem to much care for the people around him.  A taller, bulkier Craftsman followed behind him, and he looked quite grim and menacing! The type of thing you’d associate with your worst nightmares!  It didn’t help that this particular brute had menacingly terrifying armor, which made many people shiver a bit at the mere sight of him.  He looked around and then kept walking behind Eros!

 

                About a few minutes after Eros’s arrival, Saphira was the next to make her presence known.  She looked calm and composed, and she walked along the steps towards the Sanctum, and she looked at the people and stopped for a moment.  She looked at them, noticed their fearful, hopeful eyes.  They wanted answers, and they wanted them now!  She really did feel that it was best that they should know about the current situation, but at the same time, she knew it’d be too much for them to bear! A composed face on the outside, yet a torn conflict brewing inside her, she proceeded to go inside! 

 

                Curiously enough, Vincent never showed up.  Many people wondered why that was! After seeing that Vincent might probably not come, the Sanctum gates closed, and now, three of the four clan heads were in the conference room, and they all looked at each other with great unrest!

 

(Start Song Here)

                “Things have gotten worse, you know.  Much, much worse…” Eros began. “It’s come to the point that my men can’t get on with their construction projects because of the constant attacks by the Shadow Blights!  Even though we hold them at bay efficiently, they halt progress significantly! And then there’s the infernal abysses that I keep getting reports on from my men across the globe…this is getting serious, and we’re getting nowhere! Why haven’t we come up with a way to stop this chaos from spreading out any further? People are already starting to ask questions!” Eros exclaimed, quite furiously!  His companion only listened, and had his arms crossed, imposing quite the menacing presence to the other clan leaders!

 

                “Ilia…we’re going to have to tell the people what’s going on…they’re desperate, and they’re starting to ask many questions.  And frankly, I’m running out of excuses to tell them…they’ll find out eventually, so I think it’s best if we tell them now…it may be rough for them to process this situation, but them knowing what’s happening can at least put our minds at ease.  Together with our peoples, we can be able to think of a way to drive the darkness back, united! Can’t we come to that simple conclusion, without having to resort to senseless bickering?” the Stormtracer leader pleaded.  Ilia had her hands clasped together.  She was about to speak, when the Oracle stood forward.

 

                “What you have to remember, Saphira, is that while the people may be enlightened as to what our inevitable doom is, there is more certainty that there will be panic than of there being any sense of relief.  The people are like cattle. Keep them in line, and they live on with their lives peacefully.  Try to pester them, or try to surprise them, and they’ll run amok. I’m not saying that your suggestion isn’t a good idea, it’s just that, given the dark fate our world stands on the brink of, I don’t think it’s wise to reveal information to the public.” he stated.

 

                “But the public’s just gonna ask more questions! We can’t keep hiding this from them!” Eros exclaimed, slamming his fist on the table!

 

                “Well, you may be right, Eros, but there’s already enough confusion and fear. Total exposure to our plight will no doubt tip the scales towards total chaos…” the Oracle answered back.

 

                “Things are much worse than we think they are…the trees are starting to die…the ground is starting to dry up…water is starting to evaporate into nothingness…I’ve seen and felt these changes! There are already parts of the world that are barren, and the presence of Shadow Blights emanating from World’s Edge becomes ever stronger…this is worse than we could imagine. The Wraith warned us about this, and now, the darkness is consuming our world, day by day.  These changes are immediately noticeable…it’s all too much…” Ilia expressed, her voice with concern and dread.

 

                “So what do we do?” Saphira asked.  Suddenly, a loud bang emanated behind them!  They all looked back, and saw that Vincent had slammed through the door, a fiery glint in his eyes! A glint of rebellion…

 

                “Vincent, what’s the meaning of this!?” Saphira asked, summoning forth her lance!  Ilia quickly stood up and summoned forth vines from her arms, and Eros turned his fists into sharp spikes! His companion simply took stance, his already intimidating presence speaking for itself!  The Oracle remained in a corner of the room, watching everything unfold.  Vincent had a sphere of fire curled up on his right hand, and he seemed to be particularly cross!

 

                “You heard the lady, what’s with the dramatic entrance…?” Eros asked. Vincent glared at him. He then looked at everyone and scoffed.

 

                “Well, I’m tired of all of you sticking to the back seats.  I’m going to take charge of things, and I’m going to make sure that my people don’t die senseless deaths!  From this point onward, I’m withdrawing from this council…the fate of the world is in your hands, but I’m not going to do a shit about it. I’m going to look out for my own people.” Vincent declared, snuffing out the sphere of fire in his hand.  Everyone was shocked, and they didn’t know how to respond for a few instants!

 

                “What!?  What do you mean you’re withdrawing!?” Eros exclaimed!

 

                “Exactly as you heard it. I’ve asked for you all to help me, but you don’t give a damn care in the world, so I’m going to take matters into my own hands.  All business between my country and yours stops now!” he declared firmly. Ilia shook her head in dismay.

 

                “Vincent, you can’t be serious! You can’t just simply go through with this! Without the light that you and your people provide, my people will not be able to produce plants, we won’t be able to ensure nature’s survival! It’ll all come to a halt!” Ilia exclaimed, pleading her case!

 

                “Not my problem.  Find yourself another way to get your source of light, because I’m through…” he reassessed!

 

                “Are you out of your damn mind!?  Without your fire, my men won’t be able to forge weapons or continue with their construction projects! Are you really going to halt progress!?” Eros exclaimed!

 

                “I don’t care…” Vincent growled.

 

                “Vincent, think about what you’re getting yourself into…if you do this, if you go and rebel against us like this, it’ll only lead to conflict, and then bloodshed.  You don’t want that to happen, do you? Do you really want to have the blood of innocents on your hands?” Saphira asked.  Vincent stayed silent for a moment, and then he looked at her, his face cold and uncaring.

 

                “The way I see it, we’re all supposed to work as one.  We’re supposed to keep the world in check as one.  But the moment I decide I want a better way of life for my people, you all stand against me. All because without our powers, you are all nothing! Instead of finding another way, you overly rely on us, never once considering the plight my people and I have to go through, knowing that our lives are snuffed out because of what we are!  The very idea that you won’t help us is enough reason for me to withdraw…I have all the justification for it.  If you’re all going to stand against me...then make no mistake, there will be war…” Vincent said grimly.  The other clan heads remained silent, not knowing what to say in response!

 

                “Hmph, and silence is all I get in response…just what I expected…” he said, turning around and heading out the door. Before stepping foot outside, he glanced over his shoulder.

 

                “Make no mistake, our alliance is over…but I won’t hurt your people…at least, not the ones who aren’t fighting.  But for every soldier, for every fighting man and woman that comes in the way of my people and their well being, for every one that tries to get in my way of saving them…I will burn them to ash.  You best remember that…” Vincent warned, before heading out, leaving the other clan heads behind.

 

                And there was nothing but silence…

(End Song Here)

 

---

                Elsewhere, Zaria, Tatsumaki and Laren had taken to scouring the land for more Shadow Blights, getting rid of them wherever they appeared, and they managed to save many wandering travelers more than once! With each place they went, they saw that the abysses kept appearing, and that wasn’t a good sign.  Zaria had gotten the hang of the sword Laren had given her, and she had gotten used to the Dragoon’s way of traveling, which meant she didn’t feel the urge to throw up anymore whenever they traveled from one area to another!  Many days had passed, and everything was going smoothly.  The sun was starting to set, and right now, they were in a forest.  They decided to set up camp near the forest’s entrance, where they could get a good view of anyone entering or exiting the forest! They made sure to camp in a spot where they wouldn’t be seen so quickly! Zaria scouted the surrounding area, while Laren prepared camp and food, and Tatsumaki searched for firewood!

 

                “Well, there aren’t any Shadow Blights around here.  This forest seems to be pretty peaceful, so I think we should get a peaceful night of rest!” Zaria said, as she returned to camp, sitting on a nearby tree stump.  Laren, with his helmet removed, looked at Zaria and then gave her a plate that was filled with pork and potato salad!

 

                “Eat up, you’ll need your strength in case anything happens.” he said. Zaria eyed over the contents of her plate, and she smiled.

 

                “Well, this looks rather appetizing! This is the first time you’ve done something like this since we started our mission! All the other times we were eating fruits, vegetables or fish, but you managed to make potato salad and pork? That’s definitely a nice change of pace!” Zaria said.  Laren scoffed.

 

                “Well, remember one of the wandering merchants we saved? I bought some pork, potatoes and other things from him, to spice up our food menu…” Laren said indifferently.  Zaria raised her hand up and nodded enthusiastically!

 

                “Well, thank you for that! I’m gonna dig in now!” she said, as she took her first bite!  She was immediately enamored by the well seasoned pork and the soft, succulent taste of the potato salad! Her eyes opened wide, and she then took another mouthful…then another, and then another!  She looked at Laren with surprise in her face!  “My God Laren, this is so good! I mean, sure, anyone can boil fish in a campfire, but this? This is excellent! I never knew you to be the type to cook so good!” she expressed. And what came next came as quite the surprise to her! She saw Laren smiling!

 

                “Well, when I was little, my mother taught me to cook.  She said that a man should be able to provide for himself at all times, and that means to be able to provide for one’s stomach. I took that lesson to heart, and I learned everything that she ever taught me. I’ve always managed to cook up a good meal! And well, now that I finally got myself a few supplies for me to work with, I can cook up things for us. I’m glad you liked the pork and potato salad!” he expressed, his face seeming warm and welcoming!  Zaria looked at her plate and then proceeded to keep eating!

 

                “Wow…this is amazing! I definitely have to give you props for your cooking skills!” she said, happily eating her fill!

 

                “I’m glad it’s to your liking.” he said, now going back to his serious tone.  Just then, Tatsumaki arrived with more firewood, and then she settled it against the fire, providing for more warmth.  She sat down on the ground, and Laren gave her food, and then he served himself.  They all ate quietly for a bit, and soon, darkness spread over the land, as night had fallen.  The only light that served to light up the atmosphere was the fire the trio had for their camp.  Otherwise, it was completely dark! Not even the moon was shining this night!  After finishing up their food, Zaria and Tatsumaki decided they were going to rest up, and Laren agreed to stay up to guard the camp!  After going into the tent, they quickly fell asleep, while Laren remained ever vigilant to his surroundings.

 

                He noticed that the air was stiff, and that there was no breeze brewing.  At first, he didn’t give it much thought, but then, he noticed that not even the leaves were making the slightest rustling sound! There was total silence, except for the soft crackle of the firewood, which even now, was almost as silent as a whisper!  Laren gripped his lance tightly, and he looked around.  He felt that something was going to happen…just then, he heard a noise in the distance!  It seemed to be a sort of rustling!  It probably came just a bit south, towards the beckoning forest, which was pitch black!  Laren proceeded to stand up, and then he placed what seemed to be small nails around the camp, and then, he cautiously went towards the forest.  Holding his lance tightly with both hands, he walked down, his breath calm and composed, his body ready to move at any second!  His ears were especially alert, and then, he heard the rustling noise coming closer!  He then felt something fall on top of him, and he immediately shook whatever it was off of him and then backflipped, putting his lance at the ready, just about to attack!  But then he realized that it was a man who had fallen on top of him!  A seriously injured man!

 

                “Huh? What’s the meaning of this?” Laren said, as he stabbed his lance on the ground and then proceeded to help the injured man up!  His armor was all bruised, and there were serious bruises and claw marks on his arms!  This man had probably been attacked by Shadow Blights! It’s a miracle that he was alive at all!

 

                “Tell me, can you speak? What’s your name?” he asked.  The man, who looked to be older than Laren, slowly met his gaze, and he nodded.

 

                “Grim…” the man uttered.  Laren felt the man swaying back and forth, battling life and death!

 

                “Come, I’ll get you tended to.” he said, and he helped Grim get to the campsite!  Once there, Laren awoke Zaria and Tatsumaki, and between the three of them, they patched Grim up, sealed his wounds, and gave him medicinal herbs to help with his condition!  Within a matter of two hours, Grim was more conscious!  They were now all gathered around the fire.  Zaria had her arms and legs crossed, her back leaning against a wooden log on the ground, and Tatsumaki was sitting in a tree stump, while Laren simply sat on the ground.  Grim sat near the fire, warming his hands up!

 

                “So, tell us, how did this happen to you?” Tatsumaki asked, concern showing in her voice!

 

(Start Song Here)

                “Shadow Blights…they came from all sides.  I was with my men, and we were protecting the borders of Eternia Glade! We then came across a particularly gruesome bunch, but they fled, and we figured that chasing them down and killing them would prove to be a wise decision.  Apparently, it was not…and I paid the cost of this recklessness, as did my friends…we were all scattered, and God knows if any of them survived…these Shadow Blights were fiercely strong!” Grim explained, wincing slightly at his wounds!  “One particular bastard had it with me! It seemed to be the leader of the pack, and it was a strange sight! It seemed to be a sort of tiger, but it was humanoid at the same time! I couldn’t make out any more of it, since it was covered in shadow, but all I knew is that it had to be stopped! God knows if I succeeded or not…” the old man said, as he sighed.

 

                “Damn…that’s something rough to go through.  You should count your blessings since you’ve come out on top, even though all this happened…” Zaria said.  Grim looked at the woman, and he nodded slowly.

 

                “You’re right…thank you for those words, young lady.  I’m eternally grateful that you and these two Stormtracers went out of your way to help an old fellow such as myself…heh, it’s good to see that there can still be reasonable people despite the current state of things with the clan leaders.” Grim said. This caught Laren’s ears.

 

                “I beg pardon? What do you mean?” Laren asked.  He hadn’t heard word from Saphira or any other Dragoons in days, and it had been a few days since they had come across any people, so right now, he, Tatsumaki and Zaria were in the dark.  “Has something happened?” he asked.  Grim widened his eyes, he seemed to be surprised!

 

                “You mean you don’t know?” he asked.

 

                “Well, we’ve been out of the loop lately, we’ve been investigating the surge of Shadow Blights and their connection to the abysses that keep appearing around the world. So we haven’t come across any major towns or cities in a while!” Tatsumaki explained.

 

                “Ah, I see. Well, that makes sense.  Well then, allow me to fill you all in.” Grim began.

 

                “You see, the clan heads are in high alert now, and it seems things didn’t go all too well with their last meeting.  Vincent of the Scorched declared that he was going to depart from the council, and that he wouldn’t associate with the other clan heads anymore.  He’s set on freeing his people from being Scorched, and apparently, that didn’t sit too well with the other clan heads.  If anyone gets in his way, he’ll fight.  This has caused a significant rift between the clans, and the people have caught wind of this, and now, there are rumors of war spreading around and about…it’s not pretty.” the old man lamented.

 

                “That’s terrible!  But the clans should be working together as one to solve the world’s problems, including Vincent’s problems with the Scorched and how they’re lives dwindle because of their power! And with the darkness spreading throughout the world, there’s no time for bickering!” Tatsumaki exclaimed, extremely disappointed by these tidings!

 

                “Ah, so I see that you also know of the world’s true plight?” Grim asked, looking at her and the others.

 

                “Yes, and from the looks of it, you too.” Laren answered.

 

                “Yes…Lady Ilia told myself and few others, since she had said that revealing this information to the public would probably cause panic.  But now that this whole situation is happening, panic is the least of our worries now.” Grim said, shaking his head, saddened.

 

                “Yeah…so, what are you going to be doing now?” Zaria asked him.  Grim thought about this, and then he stood up.

(End Song Here)

 

                “Well, I may be battered and injured, but I should get back to Eternia Glade and report to Lady Ilia.” he answered, then wincing from the immense pain his wounds were causing him! Zaria and Tatsumaki held him so that he wouldn’t fall. Laren crossed his arms and shook his head.

 

                “Well, it’d be fine if you left, but you are badly injured, and we can’t just let you walk away with such grave injuries…instead, why don’t you stay with us? You’ll be in good company, and we can protect you while your wounds heal. And on the way to other places, we’ll stop by Eternia Glade so you can give your report to Ilia. Sound good?” Laren proposed.  Grim stood there, silent for a moment, blinking, letting the words sink in!  Apparently, what Laren had spoken seemed strange to him!

 

                “You’d really keep me in your company? Despite the fact that I’m one of the Lifespring Clan?” he asked.  Tatsumaki rolled her eyes.

 

                “You know, I think it’s stupid that people from other clans treat other clansfolk like if they were hostile to each other!  I don’t know how you’ve been dealing when it comes to facing against other clansfolk, but we certainly don’t mind having you with us! We’re not the type of people that discriminate.  Besides, we Stormtracers are a neutral people, we welcome anyone when they are in need of help!” she explained.  Grim bowed his head in gratitude, and he sighed a bit of relief.

 

                “Well, it comforts me to hear that.  Thank you for your hospitality…” Grim said.  Zaria then stood up and opened up the tent.

 

                “You should rest here for the rest of the night. You’ll be okay!” she expressed!  Grim looked at her with an unsure expression.

 

                “Are you sure? I can sleep just as fine outside!” the old man expressed, trying to be courteous! Zaria waved her hands in front of her face and shook her head.

 

                “Hey, I can sleep just as fine outside as you, but I want you to sleep in the tent! I’ll be fine, really!” Zaria expressed with a  smile.  Grim looked at the tent and then he looked at Zaria, and then he decided on going inside the tent.  He laid himself down slowly, as to not put pressure on his wounds, and then, he looked at Zaria as she was closing the tent.

 

                “Thank you.” he said.  Zaria smiled.

 

                “No problem, gramps!” she responded, and then she closed the tent.  She then turned towards Laren and Tatsumaki, who were sitting near the fire, and then she walked towards them.

 

                “Well guys, I’ll take the shift now.  You two make sure to get some rest!” she said.  Tatsumaki nodded and then laid her back on the grass, nestling herself as best as she could, and within seconds, she was already sound asleep!  Laren remained there, looking at the fire.  It looked like he wasn’t going to sleep yet.  Zaria then sat down across from him, and she put her hands together.

 

                “Something on your mind?” she asked.  Laren looked up and met her eyes, and then he sighed and looked at the sky.

 

                “This whole mess…now the clans will probably have a great conflict that’ll put the world over its head…I can’t even begin to imagine the consequences this will yield.” he answered, rubbing his hand on his face, then running it through his hair. He looked at the fire as it spewed out tiny crackles into the night.

 

                “Yeah, I know…it’s pretty bad.  Which means we should get done with our investigation, find out how to stop the abysses from spreading, and stop the Shadow Blights however we can!” Zaria suggested. Laren nodded at her words, agreeing with her, and then he stood up.

 

                “Yes, we should make haste on our mission…we now have another problem to deal with, and I’d like to deal with it as soon as possible.” he expressed.  He then stretched his arms and yawned. “Anyways, I’m going to turn in.  Let us know if anything happens, or if anyone shows up.  Good night…” he said.

 

                “Back at you.” Zaria replied.  Laren then walked a short distance away from Zaria, and then he laid himself down near the tent, and after a bit, he fell asleep.  Zaria was now alone, watching over the camp.  She looked at Tatsumaki and Laren.  They were sound asleep!

 

                “This is one crazy mess, that’s for sure…I gotta be sure not to get caught in the middle of it, though…once I get my pay, I’m out…” she thought to herself, as she observed the campfire, its flames softly caressing the firewood it was feeding off of!

 

---

 

                At that same moment, Vincent, along with Seth, were near Mt. Terios.  Lately, Vincent had been walking up to this point, close enough to see the volcano that reigned over Pyros!  Vincent had his arms crossed, and he looked at the volcano, as the lava coming down from it slowly trickled down like a river stream!  Seth had sat on a nearby boulder, and he was looking in the same direction as Vincent.

 

                “So, how long till our contact shows up?” Seth asked.

 

                “She said she’d be here soon.  I’m counting on soon not taking much longer than necessary.” was Vincent’s response.

 

                “Well, at least she’s helping us. And while we’ve been trying to get with this contact, we’ve been able to rally up our forces, and we’re ready for anyone that might come to try and stop us! Of course, they all know that no harm must be brought to the innocent, per your instructions!” Seth said, throwing a tiny pebble towards the distance.  Vincent rubbed his chin, stroking his goatee, and he put his hands in his pockets.

 

                “Very good.  We’re to make our point, but by no means are we going to bring harm to people who don’t deserve it. That’s one thing I want to make very clear!” Vincent said, as he then looked at Seth.

 

                “And I’m sure that the other clans will understand our message!  And well, speaking of lifting us of our Scorched powers, how has progress gone on that?” Seth asked, tilting his head.  Vincent then turned his gaze towards Mt. Terios once more.

 

                “I went to the Dragon Shrine the other day, hoping to get my hands on some answers. As it turns out, there’s a promising lead that could very well help us!” Vincent answered. At that, Seth’s eyes opened widely!

 

                “Really!? What’s this lead!?” Seth asked, surprised!

 

(Start Song Here)

                “Well, according to some writings that I read inside the shrine, apparently, when the Calamity occurred and the surviving people were gifted with these powers, it seems there was one person behind this.  Whether this be a man, a woman, or even a person at all, I can’t say. In fact, maybe it isn’t even human, considering it gave humanity powers after the end of the world…but anyways, going back to the topic at hand, it seems that this individual’s power lies somewhere in this world.  At least, what’s left of it.” Vincent explained.

 

                “So you mean to say that if we find this power, that it can reverse the effects of the Scorched, and we can be able to live without the fear of dying out?” Seth asked with a hopeful tone.  Vincent nodded.

 

                “That’s the general idea of it.  After coming upon these writings, I talked to some friends of mine, and they told me of someone who knows many things about the world, and even things about it before the Calamity occurred.  So if this contact manages to have the location of the power we’re seeking, then we’re definitely on the right track to freeing ourselves from being the Scorched!” Vincent said, his eyes with a fierce determination in them!”            

 

                “But, how do you know that we can trust this contact?” Seth wondered.

(End Song Here)

 

                “That’s what we’re going to find out…” Vincent replied.  Just then, they felt someone coming their way!  Seth enveloped his hands in fire, but Vincent quickly waved his hand at him!

 

                “No, don’t worry…it’s her.” he whispered.

 

                “Okay…” Seth responded.  Within a few seconds, a woman, short in stature and wearing a gray trench coat that covered her from head to toe, appeared before them!  She had scarlet hair that covered her face, so Vincent and Seth couldn’t really make out how she looked like!  She nodded to them in greeting.

 

                “So, you’re the contact?” Vincent asked.  The woman nodded.

 

                “Yes.  I was told that you were searching for the location of the Maker’s power?” she asked.  Vincent nodded.

 

                “The very same…do you know where it is?” he asked, his eyes fixed upon the woman, making sure she wasn’t up to anything shady!

 

                “Hmph, by the way you’re looking at me, it seems you don’t trust me…I do have a reputation, you know. I deliver on my clients, so you shouldn’t be worried.” she expressed.  She then waved her hand dismissively and chuckled softly.  “But hey, it’s alright, everyone’s first impression of me is almost always the same.  But anyways, I do know where the Maker’s power lies.” she said.  Vincent’s eyes opened wide at that comment, and he felt his heart race up a bit!

 

                “Tell us where!” he pleaded!

 

                “Well, it’s kind of complicated.  It’s in this world, yes, but it rests in an area that no one can see with their naked eye.  It’s a place that seems to be at the world’s peak, inside a mountain.  Said mountain and the region surrounding it are completely covered in snow, so the trek there would be quite difficult. But if the Maker’s power is what you seek, then I’m sure you’ll find it there! How you find it, though, I do not know. I only know so much.” the woman explained.  Vincent nodded and then stroked his chin.

 

                “That’s more than enough…thank you for the information.” he said, bowing appreciatively.

 

                “Yeah, and my pay?” she asked.  Vincent then tilted his head at Seth, and the young man then withdrew money from a small box! He then walked towards the woman and handed over the money.

 

                “There’s two thousand okane there in pay. I trust it’s to your satisfaction?” Vincent asked. The woman nodded and then put the money in a small satchel she bore that was tightly strapped to her thigh!

 

                “Very well.  A pleasure doing business with you! Should you ever need my services again, you know how to contact me…” she said.  With that, she turned around and left.  Vincent remained pensive, and Seth wondered what was going on in his mind!

 

                “So, are we to set out for the northern mountain?” Seth asked.  Vincent then turned to Seth, and he slowly nodded.

 

                “Yes. We’ll find our answers there, and hopefully, we’ll finally be rid of our Scorched powers for good…if the power of the Maker granted us these powers, then I’m sure that it can just as much take away our powers…it’s worth a shot!” Vincent said. “We’ll gather a small formation of troops and head towards the mountain. The could shouldn’t be a problem, since the heat from our bodies will keep us warm. It’s going to be a long journey, Seth. You can stay here in Pyros if you want. I won’t hold it against you.” he stated.  Seth shook his head and stood up with a smile, putting his fist to his chest.

 

                “On my honor as your soldier, and as your friend, you know that I’ll follow you anywhere, Vincent. So you don’t even have to ask! I’m coming with you!” he stated!  Vincent appreciated his friend’s sincerity, and he couldn’t object, so he simply put his hand on Seth’s shoulder, and then he started walking down the trail of the volcano!

 

                “Gather enough men.  We leave in the morning.” Vincent said.

 

                “Of course, sir!” Seth saluted, and then they both returned to Ember Town!

 

-----------------------------------------------------

 

And so, Vincent and Seth, along with a few others, are set to begin their journey towards the northern mountain! Is it true that the power of the Maker resides there? Can it really free Vincent and his people from the curse of being branded a Scorched? Stay tuned as their journey begins in Chapter Eight: “A Destination With Purpose!”

 

Well everyone, that was the chapter! I hope you all enjoyed it! My apologies if I took a bit longer than usual to post this chapter! I’ve been busy with work and doing multiple other things, plus, with 2.8 in my life, I’ve been playing the heck out of it, so there’s that, too! Thank you for sticking around to read the chapter! I hope you all enjoyed it, and please make sure to comment on what you thought about tonight’s chapter! Well then, until next time, stay tuned for the next one! :D

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To KHLegendIII, thanks, I"m glad you thought so! :3

 

Good evening everyone, I hope that you’re all doing okay! Wow, can you believe how fast the year is going by? February is breezing through pretty fast! Ooh, on a side note, soon it’ll be March, the 15th Anniversary month of the Kingdom Hearts series! I really hope there’s big surprises for us that Nomura hopefully has in store! But anyways, back to the topic at hand, here’s a new chapter for you all to enjoy! Read on, my loyal followers! :D

 

Chapter Eight: A Destination With Purpose

 

                The following day, Seth came to Vincent’s home early, and discreetly, along with a few men and women who had gathered together to go on the journey towards the northern mountain! Overall, the group totaled at about twenty people. It was a reasonable number, and all of them bore efficient gear and weaponry, guaranteeing that each and every one of them had the capability to defend themselves! Vincent had gotten himself ready, and they were all set to leave town! Vincent appointed a trusted friend of his to oversee things in town while he was away. His friend accepted, and vowed to make sure that Pyros would be in good hands!  With that done, Vincent went with the others.  They all had backpacks that most probably contained food, first aid kits and other manner of supplies, along with tents! And since their bodies generated enough heat because of their Scorched powers, they wouldn’t need any winter gear when approaching the snowy region where the northern mountain resided!  Before anyone in town would wake up, Vincent and company were already gone!

 

                They were already walking quite a ways off from Ember Town, towards the Barren Plains, when Seth spoke up!

 

                “Vincent, are you sure it was okay to leave without saying anything to the people?” he asked. Vincent looked at him and shook his head.

 

                “I didn’t want them to be troubled, which is why I asked Victor to overlook things for me while I’m out of town. I told him that if anyone would ask about my whereabouts, and of all of you who came with me, he’d say that we went on an expedition towards the Uncharted Isles that just so happen to reside near the northern region. So that way, they don’t have to worry, and it’s not too far from the truth, since we’re going north, after all.” Vincent explained calmly.  Seth smiled and looked at Vincent with admiration.

 

                “Heh, well, you’ve definitely got a soft spot for all of us, that’s for sure. I’m sure our people will be okay. If you say things are handled, then I’ll take your word for it.” Seth said encouragingly.

 

(Start Song Here)

                “Indeed.” Vincent replied, and then he walked ahead of everyone else and then stopped.  “Alright, listen up!” he shouted, getting everyone’s attention!  Vincent remained quiet for a moment, for he seemed to be searching for the right words to say. When it always came to it, Vincent was a man who always found inspiring words to instill upon his people.  He wasn’t a stranger to speeches, heck, he had recited quite a number of them on numerous occasions!  So why did he seem to be at a loss for words now? Vincent wondered this, and he simply smiled.  The words then came to him.

 

                “I know that things right now for us are hard…it’s not easy having a life such as the one we have…and I know that we’ve had to tolerate this cycle for many years.  I’m truly sorry that I haven’t been able to do better by all of you.  But now, we have a chance to set things right by our people! We have a chance to take life by the hand and live it out to the fullest! What we want is simply a life to life, the freedom to live it, and the freedom of not having to fear ourselves!” Vincent said, letting his words sink in with the rest before continuing.  “I know that this journey may be in vain, but then again, it may not! I firmly believe that the power to free ourselves from our Scorched lineage lies within the northern region, and if there’s even a sliver of a chance that this journey will be the one to free us, then it’ll be worth all the risks! I thank you all for coming along with Seth and I! Your loyalty, as always, is as fiery as your hearts! Thank you, my friends, and let’s march forward to our destiny!” Vincent finished, his speech definitely inspiring confidence and reassuring them that they would be okay! They all placed their fists upon their chests and they bowed their heads down.

 

                “We are with you, Vincent!” they all shouted in unison.  Vincent breathed in the surprisingly chilly morning air, and then he looked at everyone and raised his fist up high.

 

                “Let’s go!” he said, and with that, they moved out!

(End Song Here)

 

                And so, for the first few hours, Vincent and company walked through the Barren Plains, passing through the Dragon Shrine, and eventually making their way towards the borders of Pyros.  Beyond said borders laid the Wildlands, a part of the world where only wildlife roamed, and there were no cities for miles upon miles!  As they started to cross through the Wildlands, they noticed that the trees were vivid and alive!  The grass waved softly with the soft gusts of the wind, and a long, dirt path dictated where they should walk.  They noticed how the Wildlands expanded into different sections!  One section seemed to house a swamp, while another section was nothing but rocky terrain!  They could notice mountain goats skipping along the rocks! Another section had a large pool of water, where other animals would bathe or drink! Vincent hadn’t seen any normal animals in a long time! For some reason, this part of the world wasn’t as frequented by the Shadow Blights as other parts were! Probably a reason why the animals here were still around!

 

                “The landscape around here is beautiful, sir!” one of the soldiers said to Vincent aloud.

 

                “Yes, I agree. It’s very peaceful. Much better than other parts of the world, I’m sure.” Vincent replied.

 

                “Sir, have you ever ventured this far from Pyros that isn’t towards the other countries?” another soldier asked.

 

                “No, I had already passed through here more than once, though it has been a long time since I came here. Things have changed up a bit since then!” Vincent answered, as he looked at a moose that was looking at him!

 

                “Well, it’s good that this place is so peaceful. I much prefer the way things feel here than all the tension back in places like the Sanctum, for example.” Seth mentioned.

 

                “Yeah, well, I hear ya. The other clan heads were tiring me with their nonsense.  In their constant fretting over maintaining balance over how things work, they’ve lost sight of looking to the world’s matters in general. That’s why I chose to withdraw from the council. They weren’t taking action, so I decided I’d do things on my own terms with my own hands. As simple as that, really.” Vincent said, as he looked towards the front, pondering his actions back at the Sanctum.  “Whatever happens to the world, it’s their problem now. My only concern is for myself and for my people. Nothing else matters…” he stated.

 

                “Hear, hear!” a few soldiers chanted!

 

                After a while, they made their way through the Wildlands, and now, they seemed to have come across a kind of old docking bay!  Only that it was in ruins, and it looked like no one had been around for years upon years!  The wood on the docks looked rotten and decayed, and the small port that overlooked what once was a grand ocean was abandoned, with no evidence of life whatsoever!  At that point, they stopped, and they saw what lay before them.  Nothing but a barren wasteland, with no water, no plants, no anything!  Just a gray expanse that stretched out for a considerable amount of miles!  The soldiers spoke in hushed tones, and Vincent looked forward, his eyes focused on the horizon.

 

                “What do you think happened here?” Seth asked.  Vincent looked to him and crossed his arms.

 

                “Well, if I had to venture a guess, this site was obviously a dock that would welcome and bid farewell to ships that would come to and fro from the sea.  The thing to take note here of, though, is that the ocean’s dried up.  There’s no water in this part of the region, it seems.  The things the Calamity left in its wake are inexplicable…” Vincent said, as he trailed off.  Seth noticed this, and he tried to get his friend back on track!

 

                “So, I’m guessing we’re gonna travel through that expanse, huh?” he asked.

 

                “Indeed, we’ll—“ he started to say, but then…

 

                “Sir, I see something in the distance!” one of the soldiers shouted!  Everyone looked to where the soldier was pointing, and they noticed a black mass slowly making its way towards them!

 

                “What the hell is that…?” one of the soldiers asked.  The other soldiers mumbled to themselves, and they felt a little uneasy!  But Seth and Vincent knew what this black mass was.

 

                “Shadow Blights…” Vincent said aloud.

 

                “Huh? Out here in this wasteland? They’re even this far off?” a soldier asked.  “But why would they wander here if there’s nothing for them to feed on? There’s no population here, so it doesn’t make sense!”

 

                “I don’t think we’re dealing with just your average Shadow Blight…” Seth deduced.  As they would soon find out, this was indeed the case!

 

(Start Song Here)

                As the giant Shadow Blight made its way closer, Vincent and the others could see it clearer now!  It had the form of a giant sea serpent, and it was completely covered in what seemed to be dragon-like scales!  It had two giant spikes jutting out from behind its skull, and both of these spikes had giant tentacles that stretched for miles and miles!  The Shadow Blight’s scales were colored gray, while its spikes and tentacles were a light blue!  It’s face looked like that of a dragon’s, and it bore features that resembled that of one’s!  It’s big, piercing red eyes darted here and there, looking at its prey!  It opened its gaping maw, and let out a mighty roar, showing its teeth and baring its might on Vincent and his men!

 

                “And I think we found the source of the water outage!” Vincent said, as he swirled a sphere of flame in his hand!  “Everyone spread out!” he shouted!  Everyone got into position, and they readied themselves for battle!

 

                No sooner than they had dispersed that the giant Shadow Blight slithered its body towards them, destroying what was left of the docks and leaving considerable dents on the ground, causing rocks to rise up and chunks of earth to be misplaced!  Everyone dodged the creature’s charge, and as it prepared to wheel around, Vincent raised his hand!

 

                “Now, Flame Volley!” Vincent shouted, and with that, they all put their hands in front of themselves, their arms outstretched, and they fired off a volley of flame spheres that bombarded the creature’s body, making it growl in pain!  When the creature tried to shake the attack off, everyone immediately stopped the attack and dodged!  When it jetted itself towards the sky and then propelled itself down, it sent forth a giant, purple shockwave that expanded with each passing second!  When it hit the ground, it caused a tremor that sent numerous soldiers flying!  They fell a short distance away from their position, while some of them took cover behind boulders or trees!

 

                “Flame Piercers!” Seth shouted!  With that, about six soldiers summoned forth flame bows from their hands, and then, they concentrated their energy and materialized flame arrows, and then, when they aimed at the creature and pulled back on the bow, they let go of their arrows, and they streaked through the air like comets, and they managed to pierce the creature’s armor!  The creature then went into a frenzy, roaring in such a high pitch that it made everyone had to cover their heads because of the ear splitting roar it had emitted!

 

                “Gahhh, it hurts!!!” one of the soldiers shouted!

 

                “Make it stop!!!!” another one pleaded, as both of them were shivering on the ground, the ear splitting noise making their nervous systems go out of whack!  As the creature then wheeled back anew, it slithered low, and then it opened its gaping maw, heading towards the two fallen soldiers, gobbling them up in the process!

 

                “Ahhh!!!” they shouted, as the creature broke their bones in an excruciating manner!

 

                “No!!!” Vincent shouted, outraged! He ran forward and enveloped his arms in flames, and then, he propelled himself towards the creature, attacking it at point blank range on its face, unleashing a barrage of deadly punches and arm strikes with his enflamed arms, causing the creature to stagger!  It growled in pain and then gave out a roar, its force making Vincent fly back!

 

                “Damn you…” Vincent growled as he got back on his feet!  “You’ll pay for this!” he said, as he then summoned forth a flame sword, and then he charged at the creature anew!  Seth summoned forth two shortswords and charged after him!  A few other soldiers decided to go on close quarters combat as well, while the others provided ranged support!  Vincent and a few others managed to get a few hits on the creature, breaking off many of its scales and hitting its face numerous times, until noticeable gashes formed on the creature’s body!  By then, it let our an enraged roar, one that sent everybody reeling back!

 

                “Damn, this creature’s too big!” one of the soldiers shouted! “It’s going to kill us at this rate!”

 

                “We have to remain in the game! I’m sure it won’t get worse!” Seth reassured!  But just as he said that, the creature enveloped itself in water, the water it was emitting serving to heal its wounds and cast a protective shell!  It also made the creature looked much larger and more fierce looking!

 

                “You just had to say it, didn’t you?” another soldier commented.

               

                “Enough! I need you all alive!” Vincent shouted, making everyone get back on focus!

 

                For the next several minutes, though, it was more a matter of trying to survive than trying to kill the Shadow Blight!  Every time it swooped down, a giant wave of water came crashing down, threatening to drown out Vincent and the others!  They kept themselves on their toes and used the environment to their advantage, and they used their flames to vaporize the water that was heading towards them!  Numerous times, the creature fired off a jet stream of water from its giant mouth, the water coming out with fierce pressure!  It broke off a few soldiers pieces of armor, and they were dangerously close to death numerous times, but by sticking together, they managed to stay alive, but just barely!  At one point, Vincent and the others tried to get to high ground, but the creature kept sending water their way, making their chances of moving around the field less likely!

 

                “Damn, that thing’s going to kill us!” a soldier despaired!

 

                “We have to hold fast! We can’t give up now!” another soldier said, trying to boost morale!

 

                “I’ll take care of it…” another one said!  This particular soldier went ahead of everyone else, running along the ruins of the dock!  The creature paid special attention to this particular soldier, and it tried to gobble him up!

               

                “You, come back here! That thing’s going to kill you!” Vincent shouted!  But the soldier didn’t listen!  The soldier then readied a large claymore of flame, and it charged towards the creature!  It opened its mouth, and it snapped shut once he had gotten in its mouth! 

 

                “No!!!” Vincent shouted, everyone else shocked at what they just saw!

 

                “Damn, this isn’t looking good!” Seth said.  They were all readying themselves to launch a desperate attack!  The giant creature approached them, and it was ready to deliver a powerful attack of its own!  Just as its eyes were flaring brightly, it suddenly staggered, and even seemed to have lashed itself back!  Vincent and the others remained at the ready, unsure of what was happening!

 

                “Brace yourselves…” Vincent warned, as everyone was ready to attack!  But then, they saw something completely unexpected!  A huge gash formed on the Shadow Blight’s neck, and then, it sprayed blood everywhere!  The creature gave out a dying roar, and its neck was cut, its head coming clean off, and the soldier it had eaten had come out, with blazing claymore flaring as bright as the sun!  When the soldier landed on the ground, the Shadow Blight dissipated from existence, and shortly thereafter, the water it had wrought upon Vincent and the other was gone as well!  Everyone was left speechless at what had just happened, and the soldier who had come out alive from the creature shrugged off the creature’s slime like if it had been nothing!

(End Song Here)

 

                “I said I’d take care of it, didn’t I?” he asked.  After a short silence, everybody cheered, for their victory had been assured!  Vincent sighed of relief, and Seth smiled while sweating nervously!

 

                “Wow, that was definitely something!” he mentioned!

 

                “That was too close indeed…and we lost two of our own…” Vincent mentioned, and at that, everyone else fell silent.  “They were good people…good soldiers…”

 

                “And now, they’ve been avenged.” the Shadow Blight slayer mentioned.  The other soldiers nodded in agreement.

 

                “Hear, hear!” they shouted!

 

                “Yes, they have been avenged…but we have to be more careful next time, so we don’t lose any more of our friends! We have to be on high alert, understand?” he asked of them all.  They nodded in confirmation.

 

                “Yes, we understand.” they answered in unison.  Vincent then looked toward the horizon, where their journey would continue.  He then walked towards a small pile of rocks that were clustered together, and he burned a cross into the rocks, to symbolize the departure of their friends.

 

(Start Song Here)

                “Here lay two brave soldiers, whom were our friends, our brothers…they will be missed.” he said.  The others bowed their heads and then took a moment of silence to remember the two brave soldiers that they had lost!  After a few minutes, they set off down towards the waterless beyond that lay before them!  They walked on for quite some time, until they were far away from where they had fought the Shadow Blight!  Those abandoned docks looked like tiny specks now.  The walk had taken most of the day, and now, they were right in the middle of nowhere!  No high ground, no low ground, just a plain, empty field, as far as they eye could see!

 

                “Such desolation…it’s hard to imagine anyone coming through here at all…” Seth mentioned.

 

                “Well, the northern mountain is at the peak of this world, and as such, the path there is naturally not easy.  I know this is a dangerous mission and that it seems hopeless, but as long as we all have each other, we’ll manage.” Vincent reassured, putting his hand on Seth’s shoulder.

 

                “Yeah, you’re right!  Let’s keep going!” Seth encouraged!

 

                And so, for the next few hours, Vincent and company continued their trek, managing to cover much ground, though it was leading them nowhere, since they still saw nothing else on the horizon but barren land!  That didn’t stop them, though, for they still kept on going, alert for any threats, anything that might come as a danger!  Eventually, they came upon a giant crater that was seeping out oozing darkness!  They all deduced that this was where the Shadow Blight had come from!  Due to the oozing darkness emanating from the crater, though, they all decided to press on to not linger.  A short while later, they eventually came upon what seemed to be a set of rocks that formed a circle!  The rocks ranged from small to big, making them look like rising pillars that were jutting out of the ground!  At the center of these pillars lay what seemed to be a statue, and said statue had the form of an armored individual.  But who this was, they couldn’t identify!  The statue was chipped off quite a bit, and the nameplate was all withered out, with the name barely there!  They all stopped and looked at this statue, and then Vincent turned to everyone.

 

                “We’ve come a very long way today.  We should take the opportunity to rest here, set up camp.  These pillars will provide us with cover in case we’re attacked. We press on tomorrow morning.” Vincent said.  Everyone nodded, and so, they set down their bags, and they started pitching up their tents, and they made sure to pitch them closely to the pillars, so that they wouldn’t be vulnerable to attack from other sides!  In just a span of a few minutes, the tents were already set!  Some of the soldiers turned in for the night and went into their tents, while others sat around a campfire they had made by using some wood they had packed into their bags!  They were eating and talking to each other, and they were all remembering the lives of the two friends they had lost!  Seth had turned in as well, and Vincent stood where the statue was, and he looked at it intently!  There was something about it that seemed familiar to him!  Almost as if he had seen this statue before!  But he shook his head and shrugged off the thought.  His mind was weighing with the loss of two friends, and he looked towards the tents, and at the soldiers talking to each other.  He feared for their lives.  If a Shadow Blight had already claimed two lives, they would have to be extremely careful not to suffer any more casualties!  He sighed and then sat down on the ground, resting his back on one of the pillars.  The sun was setting farther and farther into the horizon, the first traces of darkness creeping slowly in.

 

                “Are you okay…?” one of the soldiers asked.  Vincent looked to him, and noticed it was the one who had slain the Shadow Blight!

 

                “Okay is not the word I’d use.  Relieved that we haven’t come upon any more trouble, but grieved for the loss of two of our own…their lives are on my hands…their families will never see them again…and that fact agonizes me…” Vincent answered, rubbing his hands on his face, clearly stressed.

 

                “Vincent…I know that it’s rough.  But things like these always are.  Danger is a risk we take every day, and death is something that comes to us, no matter where we are.  To some, it’s an early death, to others, it’s a death after a prolonged life.  We can’t control these things…fate weaves our lives as we go. We have to keep it together, and live for the ones who’ve passed, so that their sacrifices can always be remembered, and their lives celebrated! You are our leader, and we all look up to you, and we know the risks we take by coming with you.  But we follow you anyway, because we believe in you, and we’ll stick by you till the bitter end!” the soldier said, offering comfort to Vincent.  He put his hand on Vincent’s shoulder, and he felt more at ease!

 

                “That’s…thank you.” Vincent replied, with a sad smile forming on his face.

 

                “Keep it together, okay?” the soldier asked.  Then it struck Vincent!

 

                “Wait a moment…now that I hear your voice…” he started to say.  The soldier fell silent, and Vincent’s eyes then opened wide.  “Wait a moment…Audrey!?” he asked, surprised!  Audrey then chuckled softly and removed her helmet!

 

                “I guess I wasn’t going to keep up the manly charade for long, huh?” she asked, her fiery red hair flowing down to her shoulders!

 

                “But…Audrey, why didn’t you tell me that you were coming with us!?” he exclaimed!

 

                “Because I knew you’d say no! I mean, there are women here amongst us, but I know that you wouldn’t let me come, particularly because of how much you care!” she answered.  At that, Vincent got all flustered and couldn’t find any words to say!

 

                “I…well, I mean, ugh! Audrey, you didn’t have to come!” Vincent expressed!

 

                “See? That’s why I didn’t let you see me, I didn’t let you come close to me, so that you wouldn’t send me back…” Audrey said, shrugging her shoulders.  Vincent gave her a stern look, but then his face softened.

 

                “You know something?  It’s good that I didn’t see you till now.  I’m glad you came…thank you, Audrey…” Vincent said, a gratified expression on his face!

 

                “Well, I’ve always got your back, right?” Audrey said as she punched Vincent’s shoulder gently.  She then stood up and picked up her helmet and held it under her arm. “Well, I’m going to turn in for the night.  See you in the morning!” she said.  Vincent nodded.

 

                “Yeah…good night.” he said, as he watched her leave.  He then shook his head and chuckled to himself.  “Huh, she’s one brave woman…” he thought to himself, as he then saw the moon rise from the horizon!  It was a full moon, and the pale moonlight shone down upon the land.  The cool breeze that came after offered a soothing calm.

(End Song Here)

 

                About an hour later, the other soldiers finished up their meal and then put out the fire, heading into their tents to rest.  Vincent was the only one who remained awake.  He had a lot on his mind, and he knew that he couldn’t sleep just yet!  He climbed atop the tallest pillar, and then he sat on it to look at the moon.  He then felt a slight burn inside him.  He looked down to his chest, and noticed it was glowing a faint orange.  The fire that was consuming him…the fire that ate all the Scorched.  It was a reminder of how important their mission was, and how important it was that it succeeded!

 

                “I cannot afford to fail…” Vincent spoke softly to himself.

 

                “You fear failure?” a voice asked. Vincent wasn’t aware that someone was near him, so he got startled and quickly enveloped his hand in a flame sphere!  When he looked to his right, he noticed a man was sitting on a pillar beside him that was a bit lower than the one Vincent was sitting on. The man raised his hands up and offered a small chuckle.

 

                “Heh, I’m sorry about that.  Truly, I didn’t mean to startle you! I simply overheard you and thought I would weigh in on your lonesome conversation!” the man explained.  Vincent then relaxed and the flame sphere in his hand disappeared! Vincent didn’t know why, but he felt something about this man, something that made him feel as if he was not hostile. And so, he just continued to look at the moon.

 

                “Yes, I cannot afford to fail, so yes, I am fearful…anyways, what’s it to you? Who are you, anyway, and how did you come here?” Vincent asked. 

 

                “Well, same as you! I’m traveling! I came upon this strange site a few minutes ago, but I hadn’t noticed that there was camp set here! I didn’t want to wake anyone, so I simply decided to sit down on this here pillar.  I have to say, watching the moon is quite soothing. I can see why you’re doing it, anyway!” the man said, offering up some conversation.  At a closer glance, Vincent noticed that this man was wearing a black and red shirt, which was covered by a matching trench coat! His hair was short, spiky, red and black!  He was looking towards the moon, so Vincent didn’t get a good look at his eyes!

 

                “You still haven’t answered my question.  Who are you…?” Vincent asked, with his guard up a little. He still didn’t want to let this stranger feel comfortable around him!

 

                “Oh, that’s right, my apologies!  I’m Zalciru! I’m just a wanderer of the world, going wherever the wind takes me! A humble man at your service!” he said, waving his hand in a grand manner! He seemed to be the type of man that was humble, but at the same time, extravagant! Like a showstopper! This particular trait caught Vincent’s curiosity, but at least he got a name, so he wouldn’t ask anything else.  He was too tired to ask anything else.

 

                “You must be Vincent, am I right?” Zalciru asked.  Vincent glanced at him with cautious eyes. “Oh, come on, don’t give me that look! The whole world knows who you are, so is it really that big of a difference if I know or not?  Anyways, like I said, I overheard you talking, and you seem to be on the precipice of a great ordeal!” he spoke, his words sounding on point and with genuine concern!

 

                “Yes…I, along with my brave soldiers, will head for the northern mountain to seek for the power of the Maker, so that we can be able to get rid of our Scorched powers…just today, I lost two men, and I don’t want to end this journey at the cost of my friends…I’m afraid of failing…” Vincent explained. And he didn’t know why he was letting out his thought on a stranger! It seemed peculiar to him, but at the same time, it didn’t seem so! Zalciru stroked his beard in thought, and he took in Vincent’s words.

 

                “Ah, so you’re attempting to free your people from the flames that threaten to consume them? That’s an admirable goal, to be sure, and I’ve no doubt you’ve made your mind up on this matter. I do say, though, it is quite a dangerous task…and I’m sure others before you have tried and failed!” he expressed.  Vincent looked at Zalciru, and he felt he needed to follow his statement with a question!

 

                “What do you mean…? You mean to say that others before me have tried to get rid of our Scorched powers?” Vincent asked.  Zalciru nodded.

 

                “Well, not every single leader before you has tried, but there are a few notable ones that have. I’ve heard things haven’t ended well for those who tried…but well, that’s what I hear, anyway!” Zalciru said as he shrugged.

 

                “Well, I don’t care…if they failed, then I’ll be sure that I’m the one that succeeds…I have to, for the sake of my people.  I’d do anything for them…” Vincent said, looking at the tents, thinking about his friends, and all of his people back on Pyros!

 

                “Hmm, you seem to really care about your people, eh?  Reminds me of someone I knew, he cared a great deal about his people, the way that you do.” Zalciru said.  “Tell me…are you willing to sacrifice everything if it means giving up your own life?” he asked.  Vincent nodded.

 

                “Of course!” he declared with determination!

 

                “Well, advice I’ll pass on to you: make sure that your sacrifice is not in vain. You wouldn’t want all your wear and tear to go to waste now, would you?” he asked.

 

                “I understand the costs. I’ll take the risks!” Vincent said, unflinching! Zalciru gave an amused gasp.

 

                “Well, color me interested!”

---------------------------------------

 

And so, Vincent and company rest for the night, preparing to continue their journey in the morning! Whatever trials and dangers await them, they’ll do their best to push through, for the sake of their mission! And just who is this Zalciru, and how does he factor into things? And how are our other heroes? Find out in Chapter Nine: “A Town In Crisis!”

 

Well everyone, that was the chapter, I hope that you all enjoyed it! Also, special thanks to an additional character I added to this story, brought to life by KHLegendIII, who gave me the idea for this character! He’ll factor into the story, but how, I won’t say yet! I’ll just let the story speak for itself!  Anyways, thanks for reading, and be sure to comment on what you thought about tonight’s chapter! Until next time, stay tuned for the next one! :D

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