Setting Sun Story: Beta
Central Square - Arrabelle - ???
Arrabelle worked her way inward through more back alleys and winding roads that lay hidden in the houses of the East End residences. The coming day was going to be difficult, and already she had spared too much energy to put up needless fights.
In the back of her head, she kept the East park in her mind, longing to get one last look at it, but decided it was well enough ingrained in her, and that Zalach's memory would be with her whether or not she managed to reach the spot.
Besides, if it were found ablaze, the image would do more harm than good.
She emerges into the city center, and in no time, it becomes apparent that the world she so happily accepted not even a day prior has been torn away.
The café is empty and evacuated, and no passersby dare tread these grounds.
The base of the Deacons' High Tower is unguarded, and a dragon, with Lightning scarring running along the side of its head-plate and up its wings, has crashed down over the fountain, reducing it to a bloody, crippled mass of scales.
War has yet to truly scathe this vital organ of the city, and perhaps in the quick action of the city guards, it won't, but it is clear that enough blood has been shed to ruin its beauty forever.
Zalach was right, no winning battle awaits here, no redemption can be sought in this theater. Her battle is one for another time, and for now, she must carve a path out of the veins of this decomposing labyrinth.
In a daze, the dragon's rider begins to awaken. He can't feel his back or his lower half, and his lungs refuse to draw full breaths.
Looking down, he finds that the wings of his own beast have crushed his torso. The rider tears his goggles from his dusty and grimy face, exaggerating the watery blue of his irises.
He drops his head against the brick street, his eyes happening upon one last thing.
A boy sits still, balanced in limbo on his knees, glaring meaninglessly at a heap of wreckage. The rider taps at the thick flesh on his dragon's wing, as he feels the other half of his brain stir back to life.
With a strained and shivering finger, the rider gives his last request.
"With your hellfire, banish that rat... I implore you."
He knows it's useless to beg a creature such as this, whose life only continues as his tool, but beg he does... call it his last heartful cry to God if you might.
The rider's spirit gives out, leaving the dragon alone.
It plays out the command in mental silence, swelling the rider's dying soul into a heated blast of inferno. After years of servitude to this man, it would be free in these few moments to think on its own, finally achieving once more its own mind, though only moments before it would too reach its end...
But it responds all the same, not in the comprehension of order, but in the time spent in bond with the meager human.
Adam is unmoving, his thoughts still lost in the hallucinations of his shock.
The strong mirage of heat distortion produced by the beast's charge pushes against his back.
With eyes devoid of life, he turns to see it.
Still facing the wreckage, Adam's view is that of the otherworldly monster, and the coming death that evokes from its throat.
Closing his eyes, he allows for death's embrace to surround him.
Cleaving straight into the dragon's skull, Zalach's great-blade smashes down before it can expel the blast. Dropping onto its snout, the flames of its last breath are lost, those not retaining themselves shooting out the side of its jowls, going up in a little tuft of smoke.
What does stay fires back down the dragon's throat, filling its stomach with a heat strong enough that, if not pressed against the floor, would glow red through the exterior of its smooth underside.
Mountaincleaver lies halfway sliced through the dragon's head, bulging its dead lizard eyes. Arrabelle takes a moment to recoil from her springing. Her strength is not all there.
She turns to the boy, who looks back at her, his mouth half open in dream-like illusions.
Wrenching the blade up, Arrabelle comes to stand before him, holding her hand out dramatically.
"Get up, kid," she says, standing tall.
He refuses to move, and in bending to his level, Arrabelle finds an incessant rain of tears collapsing down his cheeks.
Flicking him on the forehead, he falls down to his side, still checked out from reality.
"Savior help me, even if I have to carry him, I'm saving someone tonight," Arrabelle prays as she grabs his limp arm, pulling his weak frame up to the ground.
Adam is airborne for a few seconds, before suddenly landing on his feet, jolted awake.
Looking around, it's as if the dream hasn't ended.
"M- mom?" He asks softly.
"Ah, shit," Arrabelle exhales in a manner that Adam can't hear.
His bloodshot eyes are glossy. She can't tell whether it's from the smoke or something else.
"No, just me," she answers, getting his attention.
Adam looks to the smoky sky, taking in the heat of the burning city, before turning his eyes to the crushed mound of stone in front of him.
He finally rests his gaze, tired and narrow, on Arrabelle, his face emotionless and pained going forward.
"Mom..." He chants again oddly.
Arrabelle begins to shake her head rapidly.
Sure, she had considered such a thing in the past, but at twenty she definitely isn't ready for the role of raising a teenager.
Returning to his own world, Adam puts one hand palm up over the other. It shapes into a grasp, the muscles curling in for the fictional presence of something placed within.
"Kid? You in there?" She inquires, gradually becoming further confused as she snaps her fingers at him.
With no better timing, a third voice, happy and exuberant, calls out.
Arrabelle follows the sound, guiding the sword down her shoulder into both hands.
The thin, pale figure drenched in a hood of pitch black, appears again.
In sudden disappointment, he notices Adam.
"Oh, that boy again, perhaps you can help me?" He asks like a tourist begging for directions, smiling through sharp, white teeth.
Such a smile shifts into the serious murmur of bone-chilling evil intent with the next question.
"Where is the Chaos crystal...? And before you muster up some pitifully witty response, like that foolish man I had to revive, then re-smash into bite-sized Maticcian pieces, as to why you can't tell me, let me inform you that I've grown quite bored of all this sight-seeing," the figure announces, that eerie giddiness now, just as much eerie, spine-tingling aggression.
Arrabelle is lost. All of this is confusing, for anyone.
"Wh-what? I have no ide-" she starts, watching the man slowly make for something under his sleeve.
"Look out!" Arrabelle calls to the ghost as two enemy soldiers attack him in unison.
He lifts the sleeve a tad more, whipping around to the soldiers, and running his hand along his now naked arm.
The action is out of sight, but behind his back, an explosion of Chaos releases, so potent and powerful that all of the red Saturation surrounding the center square pulsates in time with it, causing a nauseating vision in Arrabelle's eyes.
The sound of an explosion and implosion in a second's time rings out, and the two soldiers are obliterated; a faded shadow against the building's wall that sat behind them.
The ghost faces Arrabelle.
"With such a display, I pray you were about to give me a sound answer," the ghost utters plainly.
C'mon, Arra. Think, do something!
Arrabelle plays Zalach's voice in her head, trying to cheer herself on.
Not a word comes to mind. Her eyes still shake in the wake of... whatever- that attack was supposed to be, a blow that caused two men to evaporate before her eyes.
Before a sound can squeak out of her mouth, a crackle of Lightning echoes out from the High Tower, felling another dragon, one that cascades over the South End.
Her eyes look to the source out of instinct, but it just may be her saving grace.
The ghost reads her movement as knowledge, too turning his eyes to the High Tower.
"Thank you... wasn't so hard now was it?
"Now if you'll excuse me, I have a long climb ahead of me!" The ghost finishes with that same strange excitement.
He disappears as she blinks.
"But I didn't... say, anything..." she says to a dormant Adam.
Not awaiting his response, she shakes her head, deciding that it's time to leave.
Grabbing him, she leads leads him East, out of the square.
With Adam in tow, Arrabelle stops at the imprinted shadows. War continues in the West, South, and Northeast, finding a way to an exit would be a near-impossible task...
Magics of which are far greater than the chosen seem to be blessed, flying beasts spewing dark fire, floating boards, illuminating carriages... what could be next?
Arrabelle is beside herself with confusion. Just this morning, she believed she had finally seen the real world... but this, this is unprecedented.
The shadows stained along the wall form together, in Arrabelle's mind, becoming another self with her own face, one unchanged and unfettered by her beliefs, the beliefs of a child or civilian. Garbed in black armor, the armor of a Chosen, her once self, proclaimed to be the Angel of Baustas, looks back at her, a hand on her hip, her hair brightly contrasting her wear.
Just whose world is sheltered? The imaginary knight asks to the real Arrabelle, whose cupcake mount snaps from its place.
Without the adornment, the headband actually fits her nicely.
You know in your heart that you can't throw me away, it continues. Try as you might, I will remain. In fact... it leans in to her ear, whispering, I'm what's best for you.
From behind her own oppressive voice, a smaller Monstrosity crashes into the opening of the East End Main Road, through the busted door of a house, raised with a wide front porch of wood.
No bigger than a human, a translucent clump of blobbed mass, with a toothed hole at its top, and floppy, quivering, stubby tendrils, rolls about on the stone pavement. Blue chunks and fluids flow and gush around under its soft skin.
"You obnoxious little-," yells a voice from inside the house.
At the same break point in the front door, a spear comes hurling out at the creature.
It bounces off of the ground as the Monstrosity adjusts its form to, with a loud and mushy movement of its inner glob, avoid the attack.
Out from the front door vaults a man in white. An enemy soldier, whose coat flaps alongside his straight, dark-brown hair in the swift motion of his lifted legs.
He lunges over the deck completely, rolling down into the street to his knee, catching his weapon before it hits the ground next to him.
For a brief moment, he looks over to Arrabelle, his blue eyes the only feature visible behind his pulled and raised collar, winking.
In the meantime, the Monstrosity has slingshot its body onto the flat wall opposite him, stretching its center, preparing to flick itself outward.
He thrusts up the wall at the gloppy thing, which then releases its form onto the spear, wrapping its tendrils around it, crawling upward toward him.
"Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope!" He cries, waving the spear up and down, all coolness lost as he tries to remove it.
Finally, sliding his hands to the butt-end, he gives the spear a good THWACK against the ground.
The monstrosity exerts a pained squeak, the man grinding the mass into the stone until it gives.
It wriggles away in a stunned jiggle.
His opportunity. He stabs down at it.
Alas, a trick!
As his spear falls, the tendrils lash out, wrapping around his leg, and pulling the Monstrosity to him.
"Kyaa~!" He squeals as the tentacles rise up his leg.
They don't exactly feel solid, or even elastic. Just the dim blue of poorly manifested Light, taking form as tendrils.
Knowing this, he drops the act, jabbing the spear into the teeth of the mass, forcing the tentacles to retract as he grinds the tip left and right, before tossing the entire blob across the street.
His target in sight, he flips his spear into the air, like a baton, catching it in his off-hand as he signs out the cursive wave of Water.
Flicking the symbol and fanning out his hand, a needle of high-pressure liquid squirts out, clashing against metal skin.
The glob's insides are spread out in wobbly gelatinous piles on the ground, its hole squished inside out.
A wet claw stomping over it, a larger, more beastly Monstrosity crouches in the middle of the street.
Not so much an Angelic behemoth, its long back has no wings, but a massive slit along its spine, opening up to reveal a spiny bladed bone.
Not quite back, Adam makes out the form, holding a hand to his head as he breaks away from Arrabelle.
"Banding the souls I try to save against me!" He yells in madness, widening his stance and throwing one arm out in an attempt to swish a nonexistent cape and blade.
The man looks back, revealing to Adam and Arrabelle the remnants of blue dye at the tips of his hair, a clean shave, and a smooth jawline.
"Eh?" Arrabelle pings, looking at the strange, delusional kid.
Her eyes meet with the man's.
"I sure hope you aren't pointing that thing at me!" He says in a familiar, calming voice.
She dials in, nodding in confirmation.
"I'm here to help, don't mind the uniform," he follows, beckoning for support.
She would love to repeat those words for her own situation, but now is not the time.
One last matter engages her mind...
So? Are you going to accept me as the truth now? Arrabelle's suppressed dreams ask her.
Zalach's already told me the truth, we're one and the same. So shut up and let me be me.
The dark-clad Arrabelle smiles to her physical form, colliding with her shape to brandish Mountaincleaver, and accept the burden of a soldier... as something a little more than a soldier.
The Monstrosity stands before the three, a giant, black jaguar-like beast. Its bony sword rests down on its back, waiting for one of them to make a move...