Chapter 13:

Sunken Teeth in New Blood

Setting Sun Story: Beta

Western Main Road - Jun - 11:15 AM

In the ringed hole once bearing the stained glass of the library, a fire licks up toward the slanted roof. The flickering waves beckon Jun toward it.

She and Erin both rest in the calm of their fleeting disengagement.

"We're spread pretty thin over here, you think we'll be fine if we split up for now?" Erin asks, glancing back into the caved opening leading to the farther edge of the West End.

Jun nods, and Erin rushes back toward the heart of the city, hoping to gather allies to counter-push through the West End.

"Remember, if anything goes wrong, you fall back, this a marathon, not a sprint," Erin calls out.

She doesn't respond, waiting for him to be out of earshot.

"Be safe, Erin," she whispers, heading for the library compound gates.

Hopping the fence, the chakram clack at her hips, making for a not so graceful entrance. 

Luckily, she finds herself alone.

Just as it felt with Adam, entering the walls of white cement, the noise of even hell broken loose seems to disappear.

At the North end of the compound, behind the right wing of the cathedral-like library, the wall has crumbled away, and a dormant siege tank, a large metal plowing machine, the same indented lines of energy running along its form, which here lay empty, is parked to the side.

A trail of dirty and mudded footprints, as well as drag lines, crawl up the brick path to the library doors. Smoke flushes out from the inside, through the pool of flames that so ominously garnishes the upcoming entryway, her next trial.

Time however, feels suspended. Every passing matter that once spun in Jun's head fades away.

Losing her sense of self, she follows the prints alongside the flourishing garden.

The flora catches her eyes, prompting her to squat down beside it for a moment.

Reaching forward, she feels at the pedals of a purple crocus, the yellow stigma pointed brightly out from the fully bloomed flower, a symbol of Spring's end.

Unmoving, her breath continues to soften with each examination of the beauty. Her eyes fall over the surrounding white gardenia, slowly carrying her gaze up the pathway, to meet with a single hydrangea, poking up to wave at her among a patch of daisies.

Sadly, the garden of the library is the only place in Baustas that Jun can find such familiar colors.

If I can stop this now, I'll make sure that this city becomes a garden in its entirety, she thinks to herself, turning her eyes to the imploded entrance, the caved doors covered in broken pieces of painted glass.

She draws herself back into the picture, remembering her objective.

Leaving the garden behind, Jun is tiny against the engulfed wall of stone.

Taking a breath, she puts an arm on the door frame. Pulling her mask up from her neck, and further cupping a gloved hand over it, Jun does her best to filter the air as she wades through the first cloud of smoke, the glass of the high window crunching beneath her feet.

Her eyes adjusting to the dark interior, she finds... a dark interior. Jun expected to find the place collapsing in over a floor of ashen flame, but the oxidized blaze that surrounds the front end and carries up to the window appears to be nothing more than a façade.

The sinus-aching haze of smoke still causes her to tear up, a confusing predicament of which an answer must lie deeper inside. She journeys forth.

Beyond the initial destruction, Jun reaches the front desk.

Sprawling over its counter, his mouth gaping in the airless void of death, the old librarian is dressed in Deacon's robes, and through his head, a large penetrative hole, smaller at the exit than the entrance.

Jun gulps down nervous saliva, walking onward before her emotions arise.

Below the balcony of the second floor, Jun finds the hall's walls to be untouched. The same books that lie here for so many years still mount themselves high above the floor.

Two particular details remain off. 

The shelving that lines the middle of the ground floor is pushed aside, forming a wall that bars the viewer from seeing any further.

And there's an odor. Not the painful draw of smoke and heat, nothing so lovely to the nose. A stench, the stench of death, giving off the rancid smell of spoiled meat and singed hair.

Jun prays her nose deceives her, trudging through a knee high stack of books spilled from these shelves, creating a sea of old leather on the green carpet.

Stepping up to them, she swears she hears the sound of paper and leather snapping shut.

Her eyes dart to the second floor, but there's nothing amidst the darkness.

She pushes on the shelves; they won't budge.

"I guess Erin and Rain aren't around, huh," she utters, freely signing out a Fire symbol.

The Deacons had led those two to believe that the signs were granted... but she was clued into the reality of it all sooner.

She palms through the symbol, blasting down the shelves, which grind along with a fleshy sound.

"What?" She whispers.

The shelves topple, a small burn remaining on their edges, smashing onto something.

Looking up at her are the dead eyes of a human head, peeking out from underneath the fallen shelf. Its body is mangled and had been used to support the blockade of the first floor.

Putting a hand to her mouth, the putrid scent growing thicker still, she looks onward, to a pile of ash and ember.

Stacked high in a mound at the room's center, dead bodies create the makings of an unearthly effigy. They looks as though they've already been burnt through and through.

The potent smell of cooked flesh now realized, Jun gags, choking and dropping to her knees in the wake of books. She cant help but look at the terror.

Blackened and crisped faces of those molded in eternal screams, their limbs reaching out from the mass, encrusted in their desperate struggle, gives Jun the impression that those piled high weren't yet dead when the flames rose beneath them.

Jun begins to cry on the floor of the library, the coughing fit of smoke, petrifying odor, and a deep-seated remorse welling inside. 

The Fire symbol fades out...

Silence with her tears…

With the snap of fingers, the corpses reignite, along with each corner post of the second floor balcony.

The room is now lit from the center, and all is visible.

Standing on the second floor beside the stairs above Jun, a small boy in heavy white scholar's robes carries an old Baustian book open in his left hand.

"As desolation drew near, the Savior lifted his people from the land, and brought them to rest in Paradise. Baustas, the kingdom to be worshiped and feared by all Savages," he reads, his voice high and prepubescent.

He tosses the old printing of the Savior's Prophecy out into the pile of human kindling.

"Tell me, does my savagery scare you?" The boy follows.

He raises a hand above his thin eyebrows, adjusting his short black hair, a single violet streak of dye over the left side of his face, awaiting a response.

Jun looks up behind her. His large, young eyes of a strange dark purple remind her of the flowers outside.

"A-are these Baustians? Did you do this?" Jun chokes out.

The boy thinks for a minute.

The siege began no more than a half hour ago, and this area was greatly abandoned by the time they entered. The fuel of these fires were trucked in from a warpath fought in earlier days. Slaves taken solely for the purpose of a smoke screen.

"Yes! This was all me. The Prodigy of Lumina!" He announces, a twitching smile with the grim arc of demonic possession across his face, his arms spreading wide in grandiose suggestion.

The boy signs Wind, hoisting his tiny body over the railing, pressing through the symbol as he descends, gliding down gently into the foyer.

"These rats destroyed my chance of glory," He says, his robes fluttering as he touches down, meeting Jun's gaze, her body alight against the flames of the stack. "They paid dearly for it."

Jun, still plopped down between her legs, unhooks a chakram from its holster.

She wipes at her face with her other hand.

Pressing the edge against the ground, she slowly stands up.

She takes another from her left side.

The boy, seeking to take advantage of her mental state, signs out an Ice symbol, pressing through it immediately.

She only pulls her neck out of the way, the shard cutting into one of her buns, and dropping her neck-length black hair down. 

A scowl paints the boy’s face as he tenses up, tapping through the symbol, tracing Jun as she begins to move in. She keeps an unpredictable flow of steps, like a dancer bouncing back and forth as she closes up.

Too close for comfort, he looks to change his strategy. The boy taps through Ice once with each hand, sending two shards to the ground in front of him. 

He signs Wind, and blasts himself all the way to the second floor railing as Jun crosses the floor bound shards with a violent swing. 

Zooming past his previous spot, she folds her upper body forward, arcing her arm back like the wind-up of a bowling throw, letting loose one of her rings at his skyward leap, a crimson eye trained on him from the corner of her face. The shards pop at her feet as the boy crushes his palm inside the symbol, throwing her up against the front desk, and cutting with thousands of tiny pieces into her leather armor.

At the same time, he lands on the outer edge of the upstairs railing, wrapping his arms around the banister and pulling his chest in, letting the ring fly past him.

He hops the railing as Jun gets to her feet, pulling out her backup chakram from her right side. 

The boy signs Fire, crossing his arms through the symbol, and lighting up the top of the railing to mask his next attacks. 

Balls of flame shoot down from above as Jun deftly moves to avoid attacks.

The rampant rain stains the green carpet with circles of black.

Without needing the help of the Aether, she jumps up, planting her foot on the side of the staircase, and pushing off, jumping into the wood railing itself.

She smashes through, splintering wood chips across the balcony as she appears inches from the boy. He steps back out of reach of her first swing, a long winded front hand slice from her left arm. 

Folding her body in afterward, she carries herself forward, dropping her front end down and fanning out her arms while spinning, ducking as he pops off a panicked Fireball. 

The next swing comes off the back end of the spin, a backhanded slash to his face. He arches his back, and pulls his neck, the wind from the ring’s motion grazing his head. The second comes, and he falls back farther, slipping to floor, onto his back. 

As she chops at his place on the ground, He kicks through his Wind symbol that hovers just in front of him, sliding him back along the balcony to the next turn of the platform. He smacks his back on the wall, knocking the air out of his lungs. Just before he does so, he taps his Ice symbol again, which hangs in the air side-by-side with Fire. 

Jun raises her left arm, twisting the chakram in a dance that reflects the center Fire off the ring, dazzling the boy as she catches the incoming shard. It's cold against her knuckles. 

Clamping it between her hand and the ring’s open space, she fans the shard back at him. He signs through Fire to nullify the counter-attack, albeit incredibly done.

His constant back-footing has given Jun the proof she needs. This boy isn't a fighter. A good strategist, maybe, but he can't stand on his own two legs yet.

At a distance, Jun appears to be relentless.

The narrow space of the upstairs corridor means the boy has less room to move, and Jun still has three chakram remaining; perfect for throwing. She lets her left one loose, signing out Chaos before she grabs her last spare. 

The chakram implants itself in the shelf to the left of the boy’s head. He puts out a shaky hand to press Ice, but Jun uses her Chaos symbol, blasting dark energy into his hand, breaking it. 

With the devil in her steps, she walks forward, throwing out the ring in her right hand, implanting it in the shelf on the other side of his head.

He's wet himself, and his mind has gone blank. She stands over him, undoing and threatening her last ring to breach his neck.

"Look what you've done out of simple pride. You're even younger than me, why the hell are you here?" Jun asks, the life lost in her voice.

The boy shakes profusely.

"I was a Prodigy! I didn't get to decide it, it just happened! Why did they have to listen to him, if they had just sided with me, I could've avoided this! I could’ve been glorious!" He spits between tears.

"So you murdered all of these innocents?"

"I didn't do anything! They aren't Baustian, we gathered them days in advance, brought them here to act as a smoke screen!"

"They were burnt alive," Jun points out.

"Devious, isn't it?" He asks, sobbing.

Jun decides to believe him.

"Tell me, why is this happening?" She inquires.

"We were just ordered to exterminate everything that lives here. Wipe Baustas off the map!" He cries.

A shadow of a memory creeps into Jun's skull, her face lightens up from its prosecuting shape just a touch.

"Do you agree with that?" 

"What does it matter what I think? It would've happened either way. I’m just a pawn now, anyway.”

Jun nods, considering the response.

"And what if you were to disappear, leave all of this behind you... you say you did nothing, right? Just a show to try and scare me?" She offers.

The boy looks up, his violent eyes vibrating in peril.

“You think I can just run from this? He-hehe… heh…” He asks, stupified.

The muscles in his hands cramp up, as he realizes just what kind of life he chose. So young, yet so quickly deciding to remove all chance from his story.

"IT DOESN'T WORK LIKE THAT! ARE YOU SOME KIND OF IDIOT?! THEY OWN OUR ENTIRE BEING!" He screams, in obvious existential despair.

Jun holds her breath. This boy is lost. 

She bites her lip, blocking any emotion from surfacing as she's forced to lay a fatal cut.

She tries to blot out his childish yelp from her mind.

Her hands are soiled, as they’ve always been, now with the blood of child.

The Deacons gave me this home at a price… This is my job now.

She closes his eyes with a flat hand.

"Fuck. We're not so different in the end.”

East End Infirmary - Rain - Around Noon

Along the road connecting the North end to the East, the military infirmary sits over a widened section of the street. 

Farther down the road, Baustians have pushed back the waning forces that continue up the Northeast connection, cutting themselves off from the East End Military District invasion, and opening the opportunity to save those who retreated into the barracks. 

Walking out the front door of the infirmary, completely unseen, an extremely injured Rain. His chest and right arm are both bandaged up, and his wrist is hanging from his shoulder in a sling. 

Using his sheathed blade as a crutch, he hobbles out.

Lerik walks across, ignoring him entirely.

“You’re kidding me… Hang on... You,” Rain calls out. He tries to chase after Lerik as normal, but falls to his knees shortly after. 

Lerik doesn’t turn around.

“Get back here! I’m not losing to you again!” He screams at the back of Lerik’s green hood. 
Rain pushes to his feet as Lerik finally turns.

“You’re in no condition to fight, stand down and stay out of the way.”

“You didn’t say that to the men you killed last night,” Rain presses, continuing his painful march to Lerik.
Lerik watches, intrigued by the stupid boy’s arrogance.

“I was nothing before this, and I’m still nothing without it! I fought hard for this role and I’ll die for it too!” Rain yells, taking up his blade and ripping the sheath away in his left hand. 

The long, curved blade is serrated, and as each divot clicks against the sheath, it makes a sound similar to a croaking frog.

Rain aims himself at Lerik.

“Allow me to redeem myself,” he asks softly.

With Rain incapable of fighting in his current state, Lerik swiftly unsheathes his own blade, wrapping it around the back of Rain’s. 

He kicks up at the handle and pulls, yanking the sword across the street. He then jams the bottom of his handle into Rain’s stomach, causing Rain to cough blood, and fall down to his backside.

Lerik holds his blade over Rain’s neck.

“Kill me then…” Rain begs. “If nothing else, let me leave with dignity.”

Lerik laughs in response.

“You speak of grand ideas, but from the looks of it, you’re still just a boy! What dignity is there in a death like this?”

“Kill me! If I fail here, then its over for me,” Rain pleads once more.

Around the corner, they hear a voice.

“Rain? Is that you?!” calls Zalach.

Lerik draws back his blade, and turns away.

“See to it that you remain at a distance in the future, unless you want to repeat your mistake,” Lerik says as he walks off. “I’ll be waiting if you decide to…”

Rain falls to his back, his vision blurring.

Keeping a distance… that’s what I always knew was the answer. It took everything for me just to get off of my ass, and fight for this. I threw away everything I could, just to force myself to battle. It was so lonely… I don’t want to be alone. If the only way to avoid it is to stay distant to them, then I’ll do it… I don’t care about anything else.

The only thing he can see is red, whether the red of the sky, or flames of the night, he is unsure. 

In total isolation, Rain coughs more blood, turning onto his side. 

Slowly, he is approached by a white silhouette, glowing in the blur.

“Sa- vior…” Rain whispers as it comes nearer.

“Kill. Me.” He tries.

As he’s lifted off the ground, and appears to float back toward the infirmary, he’s spoken to by a young and crystalline voice.

“That’s no way to live, let’s get you some rest…”

His consciousness fades, but he feels his being sliding into the building, and finally to a bed.