Chapter 6:

Freedom Fighter

Setting Sun Story: Beta

The Pit Arena - The Hero - ???

Pushed into a corner with no escape in sight.

The hours of fighting on his back foot have kicked the dry dust high into the air, floating in circles around the high walls that keep him and his opponent in. His arms caked in sweat and dirt, the Hero struggles to raise Excalibur in both hands, biting his lip and drawing blood.

Spitting it out at the sand, he stains darker the crystals that appear rosy pink beneath the Savior’s Sun. He scowls at the silhouette of the figure that stands before him, approaching through the heavy storm of eye-watering sand and wet dust.

The enemy, dressed in the black armor of a Chosen, holds a thick cleaver in his right hand, and in his left, grabbed by his hair, Adam’s own severed head.

As he rolls Adam’s head to the Hero, the Hero tears off the masquerade face covering. His eyes scream desperation as he wipes his brow before reaching up to the top of his head, pulling down the face mask of a jagged edged helmet, his eyes beginning to glow beneath it.

I can’t win here, can I?

The Hero has no choice but to press forward with everything he’s got. His boots in tatters, he rushes headfirst into the orange fog.

One hand on his blade, he throws his shoulder forward, and his left arm behind his back, pushing his blade outward. The Hero lunges into a thrust, keeping his upper half below his enemy’s center line, his back leg staying extended.

The target swipes to the right, grinding the Excalibur’s attempt to a halt, lifting sparks of steel that light up in the scuffle’s ring of dust, and pushing the Hero’s glass posture to the ground.

The cleaver is raised to the sky, a motion that summons a gust of wind, clearing the dust from the area, and revealing the attacker to be Julian.

The Hero, his sword in the dirt, and one leg pulled outward, looks up to his friend. He appears to the Hero almost featureless, as if his face is mangled and parts twisted in the wake of his falling out with Adam.

Despite this, the Hero can still feel those prying eyes that failed to enter his soul. Prying eyes that want nothing more than devalue his existence. Prying eyes that can prove this is nothing more than a dream.

As much as I want to fight, they are right.

Without emotion, Julian whips his hips around. Like a vine, his arm comes down into an arcing guillotine that flies into the path of the Hero’s head, microseconds from decapitating him. An opportunity.

He pushes at the ground, and pulls on his back foot, dragging his body out of the strike. He then pushes forward off of the same back foot and swipes upward, pushing with the slash his entire body into Julian’s.

Julian parries once more, but the force pushes him into a continued defense. After shoulder-checking Julian, the Hero tries for the piercing strike once more. As their bodies connect and bounce into the center of the sand that weighs heavily on their legs, the Hero momentously pulls his blade over his head.

He frames the landing between the index finger and thumb of his left hand.

Sending his blade through the L-shaped cross-hair, Julian arches his back and turns his hips, letting the thrust glide over his chest.

The Hero refuses to give up. Not a single blow has been landed on his part, but that’s not enough to confirm that it won’t.

The blade still hanging over Julian, he pushes down on Excalibur’s hilt with an open palm, sending the edge cutting into Julian’s front, and pushing him to the ground, rolling him head over heels. He chases.

Leaping up above the grounded opponent, the Hero spins, his body horizontal in the air. He twirls Excalibur over him, and in the blinking moment it faces skyward, the golden hand-guard flickers and sends rays of light along the arena walls.

The Hero brings it down over Julian with full power, effectively body-slamming himself into the powdery ground. Sadly, the attack is pointless flare.

But it just feels so wrong! If I need to face them or die, then so be it!

As Excalibur once more heads to the ground, he finds a black boot in his face. Julian, with the suspected weight of a shot-putting donkey, unleashes a high kick, exploding outward from his center.

The Hero is kicked out of his slash with the well timed anti-air blow, his sacred armament flying off without him. Julian bounds out of the opening with a back-flip in the Hero’s direction, exiting the motion with an airborne kick, punting the Hero downward.

The steel toes of his boots crack the Hero’s face mask, Adam’s features in full view beneath.

Adam falls for minutes, as if sent over the edge of a cliff. As the back of his head slams into the well-packed sand at the bottom of the arena, he finds himself deep in a pit.

It’s me or them… there’s no in betwee-

Adam notices something strange.

As Julian looks over the hole, peering downward at the useless Hero, Adam finds threads; strings wrapped to Julian’s extremities that ascend into the red clouds above.

Giant, yet nimble fingers attached to a titanic hand descend below the cloud layer, flinging Julian like a puppet as it flicks its wrist away from the pit. A great rumbling is heard as rocks, dirt, and sand sift around and drop over Adam’s body.

He cups a hand over his mouth as sand starts to fill in on him. The next pair of eyes that look over Adam’s grave are his mothers. A grossly deformed and towering monstrosity in her shape smiles down at him.

Even you, huh?

She lifts a leg over him, and for the sake of being completely transparent, reveals black laced panties. Adam rolls his eyes in this split second before he realizes what's coming.

“Hey, wait!” He yells in a panic, pulling his hands over his face.

The foot begins to come down over the pit. It takes several seconds to travel such a distance, leaving Adam to watch closely his coming death.

“Why can’t you all just go away! JUST LEAVE ME BE!” He cries, gathering the strength to lift himself to his feet.

Propping one leg up on the wall of the hole, he puts both arms above his head.

She hears the plea, and as their skin brushes, a bright light falls over Adam.

The beastly people disappear into nothingness before him. He stands alone in the pit, so suddenly free of the pain that it almost hurts to know it.

… if even for a minute. Please just leave me be.

The rays of light crumble into bits of dust, and flutter down endlessly.

Paulcin Residence, Baustas - Adam - 7:24 AM

Adam opens his eyes, waking into a boggy sweat that coats him from head to toe. His bed-head is raging, his room is hot, but his core is freezing.

He kicks the sheets from his legs. He must’ve forgotten about the jacket, because he sits up to find the leather practically peeling from the bed. Adam sheds the new layer of skin from his body, his mouth gaping as he tries to find fresh air.

What have been with these dreams lately? I must be stressed out of my mind, he thinks.

After cooling down, sitting up and folding his legs over the edge of the bed, he puts his elbows on his thighs, and rests his tired head in them. Taking a silent breath, he hears only the creaking of the walls and shift of the bed behind him, as the West End Residential District outside is dead this time of morning.

He can at least follow that sensation in bliss.

Julian would kill me if he heard me say that. ‘Stress? Stress is a sixteen ton hammer coming down over your head!’ Yeah, like you know what sixteen tons is, asshole. Adam shakes his head.

I’m getting mad at a fictional conversation, I’m losing it.

Adam stretches his back only to hunch over in sleepiness before standing up. Shuffling to the window, his movement kicks up the air, causing all of his drawings to rustle slightly on their colored pins attached to the wall.

He must’ve heated the room intensely at some point in the night, as the window is fogged from top to bottom, and the days most certainly have not grown cold.

He wipes away the condensation, revealing one of his favorite views. 

The upstairs bedroom can see just over the West End, looking across a blocked view the Main Road to find the Library, a tall building reminiscent of a grand cathedral, peeking over at him with its stained glass window.

Brick roofs lay for miles, and out to the Northeast, peppered with the other tall structures and a single old tower at the West End exit, the Deacons’ High Tower still watches down from the heavens.

This might be my last day, huh. Enlistment ends tomorrow, and I’m gonna be pulled in no matter what…

Adam sits down on the window sill, leaning his head against the glass in mourning. There’s never satisfaction in a new day, as the dim orange of morning light evokes the same hazy feeling of sunset, and each one just ticks closer to defeat, as he makes no ground on his own goal.

The hopelessness of the coming future spreads through his brain like a virus. As if time has stopped, his mind goes blank. He’s unmoving, not even breathing.

His eyes crystallize, failing to interpret the image before him, warping the world in a red kaleidoscope, a spinning blank vision with no meaning. Before he regains control, he first loses every sense momentarily.

Adam takes a deep breath as he looks around the room, a room that surely could not remain forever.

7:26 AM

After dressing himself in his secondary set of plain robes, Adam leaves his room, shutting the door quietly, and slumping down the stairs into the center hallway. On the last turn, he stops on the steps, tilting his head over into a view of the kitchen.

His mother sits once more on the counter like a warden of conversational mornings, finishing off the sweets. In slept-in shorts, her legs swing off the edge as she happily hums like a child satisfied with simple outcomes.

“Hmm,” he exhales, still silent, suddenly in thought about it all.

Maybe it isn’t so childish… maybe such satisfaction is actually mature, he philosophizes. Shortly after, he remembers her actions the night prior, and how silly she handled herself.

No, still childish, Adam thinks, almost smiling.

He had always assumed his mother the hopeless widow, spending days alone, away from the sprawling city in depressed solitude, he’d never caught her in the wild like this, or ever gave much thought to what she must actually do most days.

“Morning!” calls Clara as she catches Adam peeking around the banister. He quickly pulls his head away, going beet red.

“M-morning,” he responds awkwardly.

He has no choice but to step down and enter into the kitchen. He tries avoiding eye-contact.

“They don’t need you down at the library?” She asks, her legs still swinging in cheerful peace.

“Y-yeah. I’m gonna head over in a minute.”

Clara watches Adam carefully as he makes his way over to the sweet bag. As he closes in, she throws her leg up at him, planting her big toe on his cheek.

“What do you think you’re doing, sweetie?” She presses at joking toenail blade-point.

Adam wasn’t meaning to do anything at all, but he noticed the sweet bag, and just needed some sort of action to give his body, hoping to ditch the uncomfortable air of being caught staring a moment ago.

“Nothing,” he says indifferently, reversing and walking out into the hallway as Clara chuckles behind him.

He hears the bag rustle.

“Hey, before you go. I don’t mean to be persistent or anything… but those enlistments are tomorrow,” She announces.

“I know, I’ve been stressing myself to death over it,” he says, turning around to find a sugary dough ball thrown to him.

She watches with concern, her eyebrows curling up on themselves.

“Well don’t do that! It’s not that scary really! Just think of it like a maintenance thing. Eating or drinking, shitting even!” She says coyly.

“Mom!” Adam yells in embarrassment.

She smiles with teeth, side-eying him mischievously, the second of new faces.

Rifling through the bag, she grabs and takes a bite of the last sweet.

“If you do this,” She swallows it, “I promise you, your life will be so much easier from here on out,” She pushes.

“Yeah, I’ve heard the whole seminar,” he finishes, turning away.

As he leaves the room, her smile fades, and she steps down the counter, still leaning back on it, waiting for him to go.

“Have a good day! And don’t stress so much! You've only got one life to live!”

Adam leaves through the front door without another word, and Clara leans her head over, lightly setting it on a kitchen cupboard door.

I’m sorry, Adam. This is all I can do for you, keep fighting it, you’ll discover the truth on your own.

She feels at something around her neck, hidden beneath her shirt.