I sat on the grass and watched cars race on by. One by one they abandoned me without a single glance. The forgotten world surrounded me. It wasn’t a jungle where I’d be lost but a lawn in the middle of a city.
“In a jungle I could fade away like I was never there. Here is a prison made out of good intentions, Hell. Nothing monotheistic or polytheistic just what it is. No words or actions could ever break the bars made from what we thought was best. But I am the one who is wrong for sitting here doing nothing. A devil that never tortures himself or others because he believes in more.” I amused the thought under my breath ever so cynically.
The world reached towards a light. Gravity dragging it towards the fiery ball of gas that gave life. The Groves of Heaven revolving around the Gate of Hell. Aren’t they similar in ways undefined? Lines plotted on a graph are still lines and they’ll intersect eventually. If only they were parallel instead.
Every other human listened to what they were told and so they are destined to drive away. My heart dropped through my chest because I long to forget what I’ve grown to know and join them. We were cut from different cloth. Why do I know if we were angels I’d be one of the fallen? They went to perform holy duties while I remained here like a stone. Forgotten.
I decided to dedicate my life towards my writing. The beauty others passed by I must see. Life’s choices dictated the routes we would take leading us through days, weeks, months, years. Judgment passed between the lips of angels eternally damning each other. Why do these good intentions mark us as traitors?
Choices, the true difference that divided us from fables. Raised in an advancing technological era all we have are choices. These choices turned into an endless ocean. The choice handed to us is an oar to help us navigate the journey. We created an odyssey that would leave Homer speechless.
The journey I departed has left me with many enemies. Gods, monsters, men, nymphs, and myself deceived me. Humans I extrapolated into something extravagant. A story required characters I have seen and known. I captured their souls in my mind as if they were demons and my mind was Pandora’s Box.
Created poems and stories from what lays before me. The inspiration dripped from existence like water from an icicle. Alternate states of matter displayed before watching eyes. I devoted my life to the miracle of life instead of wealth and society. Most people scrutinized my life without understanding that I am different.
My life never hinged on them but every day I watched them live their lives. Sometimes we walked into a ring where we fight but I understood why all along. The choices we made defined the lines and now we finally intersected.
Life will never wait for us.
I walked away towards a little tree. The shade reflected the color of my heart. A bottle of vodka rested against the tree and the shows danced upon the glass. I squinted at the gleam and realized I was finally alone. My hands opened the bottle as I stared out across the city and above to see the lonely skyline.
The alcohol washed down my throat with a familiar burn. I placed the bottle down and searched for my notebook. Every feeling I had felt like energy coursing through me. Calmness washed over me then I smiled from my heart after what has been so long. The heart divided from my body started to reconnect. Few friends witnessed the real me who emerges when I find peace in me.
What happened to the days when I never cared? The lessons I learned from life haven’t all been fair. A gentle and loving heart restricted by a roll of the dice. Was that what changed everything though? A heart without scars built walls against others one day. What created this kingdom within?
I was told to do what I was told. They watched me play along to their own tune but never witnessed my heart. Deep inside of me their words never reached. I discovered what meant a lot to me and that was enough for me, love and beauty. The skin-deep beauty wasn’t my desire because true beauty awaits within. Such as the words I wrote from then to now have contained the most beauty I’m capable of.
When I needed help I was too arrogant to ask. A heavy depression lingered within my head. Happiness was hard to find from anywhere. I screwed a lot of things up by self-medicating. My choices welcomed disaster. But I shattered through that depression by being one arrogant fool. I understood others faced worse but to me I needed to look deep inside because drugs couldn’t fix me.
Even now I still struggle with finding happiness in the things others enjoy. It makes me feel like an outcast. But today I have reasons to fight on through how I feel. Friends who I want to make laugh even by being completely ridiculous. A family I need to let know that I can live my own life and they don’t need to worry. My lover who I want to discover a better us with and never let her down even when I find myself afraid.
They’re the reason I write. Every beautiful thing in life they might never see I’ll open their eyes. I’m not the type to place coins on the eyes of the dead because I want to go on living. Rest silently brothers and sisters underground or forgotten because I’ll live in appreciation of everything.
So open up your eyes and witness the Universe all around you.
The words I write come to life in my mind. I witness the light of everything yet the dark remains. Without darkens we would never know what light is. But the magnificent stories I see within tell of overcoming the darkness in human hearts. Through wandering eyes is how a story of another world begins upon our own.
Dew falls from the leaves of trees like teardrops as I race with my men towards another battlefield. Mud kicks up with every step our horses take covering the tree trunks and scaring away small animals. The sky clouds over to block the Sun. Our eyes keep focus on the billowing smoke in the distance.
My hands shake with fear and I readjust them for what feels like the hundredth time. The other men hold their heads downcast knowing death awaits some of us. A lieutenant studies the map of the land noticing that the land is different. Fear is a part of what we do for the Royal Protectorate.
The Royal Protectorate has many branches. Some branches are nobler than others but they make a single tree. Documents say the organization exists in opposition of tyranny. Us soldiers don’t think in as grand of notions as our superiors because we have one thing worth fighting for, our homes.
A few months ago a special unit was made to subdue alchemists in the nation of Dragacia. Alchemists are people born with a connection to something known as the Mists. The truth behind their origins is well hidden. I could care less about the alchemists because people are people and there are both good and bad people. Our superiors decided they are too dangerous and unpredictable.
Give humans more power and their true nature emerges. Their sinful nature will destroy everything we have made. We must control them, study them, and decide the best action. A speech given by the commander of the Royal Protectorate. Words and allegations condemned people from living their lives. My unit feels uncertain about the way this is being dealt with.
We can’t bear to talk about it. Our missions are more important than dividing the public. I have seen an alchemist go berserk only because of persecution and for that one event they’re judged. What of our cruel words that push them towards the ledge? But the Royal Protectorate swears the monsters are them. Only my unit knows where the real monsters exist.
Centuries ago when the human empire collapsed something was created. A weapon created to shatter the connection alchemists have to the Mists. The connection is in every human but that was a theory until the weapon detonated on their city. Technology that could magnify the energy in the connection, compress it, and release it. They created a bomb.
A third of the Earth was swallowed by the explosion. Mist radiation followed the air currents. The radiation wasn’t lethal but it changed the ecosystem rapidly. No records written from that event until three centuries ago meaning we lost a millennium.
People have tales explaining why. I don’t buy into any of them. My men and I fight abominations made from mist radiation. I think for a millennium humanity fought these things. Their numbers dwindle but they wander near towns like starving wolves. We took upon the task of eradicating them but we have no clue how many there are or if they can breed.
I close my eyes trying to think. Something huge knocks me off my horse. My eyes open and I stare at the clouds above wondering why I can never rest. I unsheathe my blade to stab the ground for balance. A beast made of shadows stands before me and in the shadows I could see faces drowning. One of men lays under a foot of the beast and the cracking of his bones echoes inside my head.
“Men we came here to wipe this creature from existence. If we don’t it’ll kill more than just us. See the souls captured in its shadows? Death is only the start of the pain it’ll inflict. The three alchemists need to stand behind me. I’ll give you time to cleanse the wound but if I survive tell me what these truly are.” I rally my soldiers the best I can.
“That’s a big if General Niteblade! But this won’t be easy like the last few. It is thriving off of dark emotions of the victims to create a shield. And we have no idea how to destroy that.” shouts one of the alchemists.
“Well fuck what am I supposed to do?” the lumbering beast darts at us but I raise my swords just in time to deflect the blow.
“Improvise!” screams everyone even the lieutenant.
A howl breaking through the membranes that divide mind and heart leaves a fissure within. Every thought of self seems even less real. They vanish into the fissure. No way to be led back to the correct path if there ever was one to begin with. And the truth stands perpetually like a pagan monument built on hallowed ground.
I realize the thoughts in my head don’t justify a thing. The truth will be even if every soul is deleted. Who am I to question it? All I can do is try my best at living. The howl returns me from the open space inside. My mind must calculate and my heart must will. If they do anything else I will lose this battle.
The beast dashes at me once more with gnashing fangs. I cross my blades right before the impact connects. A shock wave of force runs through the blades and into my bones. I grunt from the pain then realize the beast just standing in front of me.
“Why does it have armor?” I say the most obscure thought in my head making the entire regiment laugh.
I remove my plate armor and taunt the beast. It charges at me but I jump over the attempt. The alchemists’ summon a magical barrier before it went any further. A staggering opponent unaware of me above aiming my blades for his eyes. It howls once more causing the barrier to crack.
The sergeant stands in front of the alchemists as a secondary barrier if the first falls. This is always harder with others. After I lost the only two families I ever had I’m cold to his selfless gesture. Novice alchemists can’t withstand the shear strength of the demons I fight. Well gravity will be the determining factor here. The beast lashes out with its arms shattering the barrier. Crystallized shards of mist fire off in every direction.
I slam the blades into the beast’s neck and push it backwards. Dark mist spews from the wounds. My chest starts burning when the dark mist engulfs the whole field. I tear my shirt off and feel the mark left there years ago from a lover. Memories about her I chose to forget return because the darkness feeds an inner fire I wish to put out.
“Poor old Niteblade abandoned by everyone he cares about. Unable to see what was in front of you you accepted one of us. Was it the face of your lover that made you blind? Did you not see the corpses, smell the decay, watch friends kill each other with their ravenous lust, and see your lover leading that dark covenant?” a sinister voice emerges.
“I saw everything. She lost her way and so did others. But that woman wasn’t my lover. She was one of you, the Endarkened.”
“Is that what you call us? We are the Illuminated. Life hurts some people really badly. The Mists have been altered and now the strong emotions people catalyzes an extreme reaction. Complete soul removal. The human must be a willing party for us to be created. But there is another way if an emotional bond ties a human to an Illuminated. You gave into the desires of flesh and desecrated yourself.”
“Yeah. I’m a human we make mistakes sometimes small and sometimes big. We will screw up but we can learn. Can your kind learn anything more than your patron sin? Pride.”
“You could tell? I can’t say if we know our potential when we are hunted like beasts. Ask your superiors who imprisoned the Seven Kings and altered the Mists. But what do you care? All you know is orders like we know sin. We both don’t understand why we exist.”
“I don’t feel for you. The fact I can relate makes me want to kill you more. I’ll check into your lead though and lay to rest every corpse you tainted in your wake.”
“Thank you. I don’t like living if it means I erase everything around me. But I can’t surrender without a fight. My patron sin says more terrible things and you’ll never hear it. Why? Your friend who stood in the way of those alchemists. He’ll never be able to return to battle even if he lives. Such a selfless act refutes my existence.”
“Your execution comes from the Spear made from the light of hope. Searing through the damnation until only humanity remains. The word of God is lost yet morality never dies. It is in all of us to stand upright no matter how much we fall. Without holy text we can still see the way. Defiled hearts must be cleansed by the surging waters of hope and change.”
“Beautifully resolute. You have admirable qualities but lack many things. I won’t pretend that I can persuade you to sin. Death is the answer then I’ll snatch your soul. Lowly beings such as yourself make lovely pawns.” Pride snickers at my belief and humanity.
I reach for my blade while listening to the wind for Pride’s movements. The darkness parts, I shove my blade into the opening, and see red blood spew out. I stumble back fearing my action. A laugh trails from multiple places in the darkness. Blood on me dissipates into the darkness. Thoughts pile up in my head making it even harder to see the difference between illusions and reality.
I feel with my left foot. My boot hits the hilt of my other sword. I kick up the blade and grab it. Something feels weird. The weight is off. It transforms into a spike and pushes into my palm. My mark reacts violently. Blood turns black and crystallizes into a blade. I feel my mind slipping underneath the taint.
The blade absorbs the darkness. Pride stares at me with a smug gaze. He rushes me biting and clawing like a wild beast. My flesh begins to crack and memories begin shattering. I struggle to find any light within me. Everything goes black but I can still hear my thoughts.
Stop the darkness, I must. EMBRACE IT!!! No, I can’t. My life h as to remain. I’ve seen too much. REST FOR A WHILE. . .no. If I let you win I’ll never be safe inside. Isn’t that overrated? Very much so. Then why? I must make right the past. You can’t. I know that. Why then? To protect my new friends.
Light pours from the cracks. I stand up in a beam of sunlight. The blade that is my right hand dissolves the darkness within. Sunshine fills the crystalline blade. Pride backs away with fear then starts laughing. I dash at him but his claws deflect my attack.
“Did you really think light could. . .” Pride’s claw fades away into the sunlight.
I push him back to the edge of the forest clearing. A giant oak stands between him and escape. I say a prayer under my breath and shatter the crystalline blade into four shards. Each shard flies into the beast. Two shards pierce his shoulders, one digs into his heart, and the last enters his head through the right eye. The beast disintegrates into sparkling sunlight and I fall to my knees.
The alchemists come over and place their hands on my shoulders. I hear the lieutenant crawling over. Brothers sitting in the aftermath of a battle. The stench of blood lingers in the air. Three brothers lay lifelessly on the ground. Tears drip from our eyes. We know it is our fault death welcomes them. Strength defines the result.
“I wasn’t strong enough to save them. Lieutenant you can’t even stand up now. The horses ran off and I’m too weak to carry you to the nearest town. I’m your general but I can’t do more than when I was a nameless soldier. I should relinquish my position.” I lament on the truth of these events.
“Kid, you are fit to be a general for saying that. General Niteblade thank you for saving our lives. And we are sorry that you must overcome that curse for us. If you turned we would’ve all died. But you overcame it. What is a few broken bones, gouges, and blood? Nothing compared to that curse. What matters is we are alive.” the Lieutenant adds from an adrenaline high.
“Who can still stand?” I yell at the remaining soldiers who all yell back.
“General let us alchemists lead them. The town must be burned down. If he was wandering that only means he ran out of livestock. Anything else?” the taller alchemist pats my back.
“Bring the bodies here. I promise to lay them all to rest. They aren’t easily erased like our superiors think. One lonely regiment tucking a scary truth away from the public’s eyes. But we still have things we must do. Leave me here though. I have to finish that prayer for it.” I give the best orders I can with Pride’s essence merging into the mark.
In the encompassing light we walk
Through the straits of sin and talk.
Choices make the path. Undeterred,
We continue our journey. What we feared
Will soon burn away in the light.
Beings of stardust who think they’re right.
Our lies will burn away
Leaving nothing but ash.
Humanity is nothing divine
Nor will it ever be. Wine
Should be drank and bread shared.
Not taught or learned just shared.
There is darkness and light. Day and night,
The movement of celestial bodies around stars,
Give birth to the duality that leaves scars.
Rest in the light of dead stars and bask in daylight.
Among tendrils of light I drift endlessly. They touch my flesh with warmth. The warmth sears through darkness encasing my entire body. A coldness dissipates. Each tendril bursts into a flurry of light blinding me. I hear a voice telling me. Get up. You have much left to do.
I sit up coughing like when someone wakes from a fevered sleep. I rub my eyes clear and stare at a spinning ceiling fan. My side aches so I press my hands against it only to find clean bandages. I attempt moving but my body doesn’t have enough energy. These shallow breaths of mine echo throughout the bedroom. Suddenly someone knocks on the door.
“General Niteblade are you awake yet?” asks a man with a soft tone.
“Yeah. What happened?”
“Well,” the man opens up the door and places a gun to my throat, “We want to know that too. Do you remember anything?”
“Just when we took out our target. We were cleansing the remnants left behind. I gave a prayer to the target so the souls could separate. The soldiers gathered up the corpses based on our prior orders.”
“Your only job was to eradicate the sinful town. The alchemists had the Endarkened under control. I must ask,” he readies a charge into the barrel, “did you let your soldiers know the orders given to you by the High General?”
“Never. They have no reason to know how evil our organization is. Where the fuck are my men?” I yell so loud that my chest starts heaving.
“Among the light above. Your regiment came into Dragacia through the Forbidden Path. The guards were attacked by your men because something chased them through the Forbidden Path. I reached the battle in time to see two Endarkened fighting until the death. Five of your men tried to stop you but you didn’t recognize them. The rest I have no clue. A burst of light swallowed up everything and everyone there except you.” the man tosses his gun on the ground.
My side starts burning with more pain. The stranger takes a pair of scissors out of a cabinet, cuts off my bandages, uses a eyedropper full of water on the area, and dresses the area with new bandages. He writes something down in a book then flips back a page. I start breathing easier after he did that. I stutter a few words and slap the guy.
“You knew the man who taught me medicine. His notes speak extensively about the mark on your chest.” The young man pushes back his glasses. “We owe him a lot. The thing on your left side is a new mark. A mark of light. Your body is caught in a war between the two forces. From what I can tell your dark mark progressed completely turning you into an Endarkened.” He laughs a little then a glare shows from the corner of his glasses. “You still fought against another Endarkened though. After the explosion of light you gained your mark of light. Honestly there is no need for me to monitor your vitals any longer but the High General made you my foremost responsibility.”
“Ah he gave me a babysitter. Wait you said I’m fine? I can’t even move!”
“Oh that is my doing. You see,” he gives me a smile, “I’m a doctor with little battle experience. If you went out of control I’d be a helpless victim. I hypothesize that there are triggers for the marks and wish to prove it. By drugging you with downers and narcotics the variances should be dulled down enough that only strong triggers can create noticeable results. You are my test subject.”
“Bring on the first test then. The sooner we finish this the sooner we can help others. I don’t trust you but I can’t really be picky.”
He picks up the gun and twirls it in his hand. While whistling the doctor shoots a bullet into my right shoulder. I scream out loud but strain to keep my eyes on the sadistic doctor. He smiles at me. My body shivers from the blood loss. The doctor closes the door after he wheels in a table of surgical tools. I stare at him alarmingly.
“Don’t worry I’m a doctor. . .”
“But it was you who shot me!”
“The experiments conclude that there is no easy way to balance the two energies within you. We really should find an alchemist with the knowledge about the Marks of the Forsaken Brothers. More specifically we are after disciples of Pan and Karthentrex. The intelligence branch sent me details on a lead north of Dragacia. Do you have anything left to do in the capital?” the doctor taps his foot and anxiously glances at the door.
“One thing. This needs to be off the records though. My sources spotted Ariex, my brother, and arranged a meeting. He worked with alchemists of the sect we need. If you want I can go by myself.”
“No. My duty is to watch you . Even if we raided a garrison I’d have to be your accomplice because the High General hates loose ends. Screw him but I have my orders.”
“Damn. I’ll be ready in a second Raejak just get the one device I’ve seen you used to sneak out.”
“I know not what you speak about Synji. I’m a good medical doctor of the Royal Protectorate who respects the Mist Ban.”
“And we totally aren’t the only regiment who uses Mist Alchemists. The taboo is stupid and everyone knows that. Society uses the alchemists unjustly to hide the true issues we face. My brother left the Royal Protectorate for that reason. I envy his strength for walking away from what’s wrong.”
Raejak tosses his arms up then walks into the other room. A few books fall to the ground. He curses the realm of physics for scheming against him since the day he learned about the Mists. He tosses a little metal orb with engravings all over its surface. I glance at the surface and realize there is a map of the capital on it.
“Synji where do we need to head? Also grab my shirt because I don’t think you’ll want to walk there.”
He turns the orb until he finds the place. A ray of light emerges from a hole and touches Raejak’s eye. The light thickens up until his eye can’t be seen. Suddenly light rays shoot off from the first one then crisscrosses around Raejak and me. I get all dizzy but hold tightly to Raejak’s sleeve like an anchor.
We appear in a filling bathtub with two naked men in it. Me and Raejak stare at each other for a few seconds. One of the men gets all angry while the other hides his junk with his hand. We start laughing uncontrollably. The angry man punches Raejak in the face making him fall out of the tub.
I get out and grab Raejak by the leg then pull him to the door. The two men keep watching us. We both put our index fingers over our mouths and shush them. When we get out of their house we begin laughing again. Strangers give us mean glances. Raejak finally stands up and I pat his back.
“The town never changes. We get looked at like some disreputable vagabonds. Decades of isolationism but society is the same. It is a wondrous quandary!” exclaims Raejak.
“Raejak, shut up. These people have been controlled by things they barely question. We have competitive sports, competitive politics, competitive jobs, competitive beliefs, and competitive everything. They wouldn’t realize equality and respect if they slapped them in the face.” I grab a cigarette and light it.
“What’s your proof?”
“Look over there. A crime scene where someone got shot. There is an angry crowd standing over there blaming injustice. It isn’t that and they should know that. History says there was a time when people didn’t even have to mass together to express how they felt. We have lived in the same world for centuries. They have much to be happy about but no they all want to extrapolate the situation for their egos. Kind of tragic if you ask me.” I puff out a cloud of smoke.
“You have a point. I just wonder how others see it. Do they truly believe they’re right or were they never taught to think? Education is the first step towards leading a better life. The education system keeps getting worse. Less free thinking and more memorization. All the schools do is perpetuate the problems. Some good teachers still try but the majority just do what they’re told. When in war for us soldiers we must follow our general’s orders no matter what. If we don’t we are labeled deserters. And if we follow the orders and it creates a travesty we’re labeled tyrants. Both things are wrong but society gets to dictate what’s right or wrong.”
“People need to just walk away. Follow your heart and if you’re wrong accept it then move on. And if it gets too hard take a nap. Everything will be better when you awake.”
“I’m not sure laziness is what we need.”
“Would you rather be a lazy bum or someone who only does what he is told?”
“Valid point King of Sloth. Well go find your brother I’m going to drink this bottle of wine and take a nap. Use the code phrase to wake me up.”
“The High General’s wife is a slut.”
“Really? That’s the code? Fine! Just don’t go into the brothel because I’m not pulling you out of that diseased cesspool.”
“Probably was caused by the High General’s wife.”
“You don’t like him do you?”
“Fuck you. Go talk to Ariex and remember the code. It’ll save your life.”
Ariex, have you known all along? The demons of this world don’t have horns. They walk beside us unto the sound of creation, destruction, and resurrection. I was an idiot to think that the sides are so easily divided. The two marks have taught me that we are wrong. But my duty remains the same. And you will need to follow your own duty.
My body can’t handle both the darkness and the light. You’ll know what we should do but I can’t give you my burden. We’d be playing right into their hands and our suffering won’t end with death. Who are they? Who made these monsters both human and not? Two brothers recreated among creation endlessly to guide everything. A differing point of view created a war that has no victor in sight. Futility is in our nature yet we succeed.
We started as kids running on meadows of grass. Those days we believed in adventure and fun. Tragedy haunted on the outskirts of our Eden like a serpent. He watched us grow from children into men. We walked separate paths and met him along the way. My heart poisoned when everything came crashing down. The tragedy of laying your love to rest. And the darkness I found myself in blinded me from Ariex’s darkness.
He abandoned the Royal Protectorate. An order made him question his humanity. The High General decided to execute unaligned Mist Alchemists in Southern Dragacia. He saw a kid lose his father because no one would help. Orders are orders. Ariex repeated that a lot to justify the past. On different paths we sat there and stared at nothing for months. We lost sight of the endless blue skies of our Eden.
I grab a corner of a stone wall. The memories stimulate the marks making my blood feel like it’s boiling. I try clearing my mind to no avail. I begin inching my way towards where Ariex will be waiting. The guards and the people laugh at me like some drunk. Tears roll down my cheeks but I keep moving.
Suddenly I lose my balance then fall on my back. I gasp out air and gaze at the cloudy sky concealing the Sun. A desire to give up washes over me. I shakily reach my hand out towards the sky. Someone gently grabs my hand. The warmth of this person keeps the doubts at bay long enough for me to get on my feet. The person laughs at me but never turns to face me.
“Synji, you idiot, did you really let yourself get cursed again? What would our parents say? We only have one choice if you don’t want to die.” Ariex’s deep voice carries a sense of rationality.
“Well Raejak and you agree I’m an idiot. Thanks! Asshole. And do you mean we should do an absolution? You know that only makes things worse. An Endarkened and an Envoy of the Mists? Are you flipping insane? The tale of Karthentrex and Pan should tell you how terrible of an option this is.”
“And you think dying will be better? The curses will dissolve whatever remains of you. If you live that is more time to change fate. Choose against life and you never existed at all. You can’t leave me all alone. I know this choice will condemn many to pain but they’ll survive because that’s what we know to do. Survival is a part of human nature.”
“This is from the person who also says that laziness is a part of human nature.”
“I’m not going to waste energy on barely surviving. We have minds so use them. When survival is easy and we can relax then we can learn. I learned that an absolution blends the existences of the two participants. We’ll know everything about each other even the things we don’t want to. The only thing is that the hearts must be aligned. Do we truly do this just to save you?”
“No. My life isn’t worth that much to me. We do this with the intention of reversing fate. Too many people accept what they’re given. Screw everything and we will rise.”
“That’s my brother! By the light granted through Karthentrex’s knowledge and the darkness created with Pan’s death the tree of chaos arose. The choice to mend the Universe tree was made when nothing should be allowed to live. If they had walked away everything would have faded. A Universe sentenced to deletion that refused its fate. We are the children of a forbidden plane.” Ariex grabs my hand creating a powerful light in our palms.
A warmth washes over the coldness of my heart. The clouds above start swirling and create an opening for the Sun. Light focuses on my chest where the Mark of the First Blight rests. Painfully the light burns away every trace of the curse. No one else sees the absolution because the residents of this city are blind to the Mists. But the High General watches from the castle and knows who is responsible. The light from the Sun turns dark with the curse.
Something keeps the light from finishing the absolution. My memories of the Endarkened emerge in the city. Three portals appear above the city. An eye, a staff, and a gavel come forth. They judge our worth. A arrow flies from where the High General is and pierces the eye. Raejak comes from nowhere and closes the portals with some complex Mist Alchemy.
“You have no power here Grand Judge. The eye is blind. Go back to the Stones of Fate because someday even you will fall. I’m sorry. You will not erase another Universe because it wasn’t perfect. Let these two be free from your judgment. We might be damned but there is still hope. I, Raejak, will atone if we fail. These are my conditions.”
“This is Raejak? You’ll be a great pawn in the End. Your belief in hope will diminish in the future. The Stones of Fate only says that I’m more sorry than you. I’ve forgotten so much but I feel like I must erase your Universe. You all remind me about something I hate. Rintaen made a similar bet with me. I accepted his because I wanted this to be entertaining. I’ll accept yours because this is my only way to win. You can’t deny fate.”
Everything returns to normal. The Mark of the First Blight rests on its new bearer. Ariex and myself stare at each other. He touches the mark and winces from pain. I pat his back. We look up at the still cloudy sky. Randomly another arrow with a letter zips by into the stone wall. I open the letter and find detail orders for Ariex and myself.
Ariex grabs the letter from my hands. He starts laughing then hands it to Raejak. Strangers give us very frightened glances. I sit down and rest my head in my hands. Raejak tears up the letter, they both sit next to me, and we stare at the castle.
“We aren’t allowed to ever return. Our last mission for the Royal Protectorate has begun. Can someone tell me what the fuck just happened?” Ariex asks with some unease.
“First, we made a deal with something from the Mists. The Grand Judge was unexpected. I was briefed by the High General on the chance of failure. If we didn’t make a deal the First Blight would start and we’d be unable to stop it.
Second, the orders are the true objective of the Royal Protectorate. Have fun fishing for the next two years Ariex. Be sure when you meet the kid you don’t kill him. He is a good kid just the hate he has for the Royal Protectorate makes you the best candidate. You only need to bring him to the Devil Straits in Aldrassil. After that the dominoes will fall.
Third, Synji and myself need to destroy the home of the Endarkened. The Gorundin Mountains have a huge secret that we’ll unravel. If we are successful the world will have more hope. We all may end up being despised by history though. We are knowingly creating a disastrous future that will undo everything the Grand Judge hopes to accomplish.”
We look back up to the sky. The clouds are clearing up. Perhaps a city divided but at this moment it’s beautiful. The people living their lives unaware of the scary truth. Us three must protect all of this because although they may be wrong they’re happy. Whatever may come I’ll do my best to live and protect this city divided.
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