Chapter 1:

Welcome to "The Shelter"


An endless war that plunged the world into darkness, destroyed peace and claimed endless lives continues to rage on.

Over half the world's population has perished due to the excess use of nuclear weapons, and water levels are rapidly rising due to the sheer terror of weapons that have sunken entire countries. Technology has mostly returned to a primitive state, and the majority of people around the world live in community built settlements. Only the government and the rich are able to live in a semblance of what the world was like before the war.

One of these settlements is a shelter built in a country that has been mostly destroyed and submerged in water. It was originally built by the government to house orphans who have lost their parents in the war, but its use was then extended to war veterans who have returned alive but no longer have a family or home to go back to. The place have been long since abandoned by the government as the losses incurred during the war were far too great, and they decided that a shelter for orphans and people involved in the war were not worth the sparse resources they have. The children there now are under the care of Almeric Soldaterin and Ilyia Cthulhurin.

Almeric is the latest person to be admitted to the shelter, just a little over a week ago before the government stopped providing support to the shelter. He is a 20 years old man with disheveled hair and a boyish face. A big vertical scar runs across the left side of his face. He is considerably well-built, something that can be attributed to his career, a soldier. He lost his left arm in the war from the hand up to the forearm, and he is now utilizing a hook modeled from scrap material he collected around the shelter as his prosthetic arm.

Ilyia has been in the shelter for a considerably longer time. She is 18 years old, and has long hair with neatly cut bangs and a face with soft features. It was said during her service in the war by male soldiers that her gentle smile could even reignite the spirit to fight in the most injured soldiers. She worked as a nurse that assisted in treating the wounded, and she have even occasionally treated soldiers that were from the enemy countries. She is gravely ill as she is the sole survivor of a poison attack launched by enemy forces on the first-aid center she served at, and she now faces the side effect of having all her organs slowly fail, meaning that death's door looms closer everyday for her.

The both of them serve as the adult figures of the shelter and continues to trudge on in this hopeless world to provide a safe haven for the children.

Almeric oversees the safety of the shelter, trying his best daily to keep everyone safe. However, he isn't well liked due to his curt and cynical personality, and he doesn't let it show that he at least cares about the safety of the young ones. However, he doesn't take it personally. How much worse could things get? Accepting the fact that his body is as broken as the world, nothing else could really affect him anymore.

"Mr. Soldaterin! Mr. Soldaterin! There's an emergency!"

A boy living in the shelter rushes to Almeric's room and pounds on his door repeatedly, crying for help. Almeric slides off his bed and walks over to the door to answer the boy.

"What is it?"

"There are a bunch of bad guys threatening to hurt sister Ilyia at the front gate!"

"Stay here. I'll go check it out."

Almeric made his way to the front gate hastily, and he witnessed an Ilyia putting on a brave front, speaking to a group of rough looking men while the children hid behind her.

"Hey, missy. If you don't get out of the way now, there's no telling what'll we do to you and the runts!"
One of the men raised his voice at Ilyia, and advanced towards her.

"Don't come any closer! I won't let you hurt them!"

Almeric sighs and casually closes the door behind him, strolling towards the scene of commotion. He scans the group of men briefly, and closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Four men. All four are unarmed, and they are dressed haphazardly. None of them look particularly well built. He opens his eyes and lets out a sigh again, and approaches the scene of commotion.

"What's the issue here? What do you people want?" He raised his voice slightly to shift the men's attention onto him.

"Who the hell are you?"

"Just someone who lives here."

"Someone who lives here? Then I hope you have a good head on your shoulders, because I'll be making this missy into mincemeat if you don't bring out your food supply now!" The man leading the conversation shook his fist violently at thin air in the direction of Ilyia.

Almeric sighs once again.

"Leave now. We can't simply give our supply away just like that."

The men were just a bunch of ragtag local bandits who probably lost their houses and livelihood during the war. They're victims of circumstance, and Almeric would prefer if he didn't have to get physical with them.

"Kid, you picking a fight?" The man shifts his angry gaze away from Ilyia to Almeric.

"No, I'm telling you to leave now."

"Boss, this kid's not payin' us any respect! Besides, he's just a cripple! Let's rough him up!" One of the men behind the leading man prompts him to start a fight, and before long, the leader charges at Almeric.

"Watch out!" Ilyia cries out.

"Heh." A slight smirk formed across Almeric's usually emotionless face.

"Don't need to have you to tell me that."

He dodges the right hook the man threw with near lightning speed, and counterattacks by planting his knee firmly in the man's stomach, sending him flying towards his lackeys.

"You little..!" All the men rushed at Almeric while Ilyia watched on in horror, the background filled with a mixture of men screaming and children cheering. Almeric navigates around the men expertly, avoiding every single attack they throw at him. Once he was clear of any danger, he plants his left arm firmly on the ground and performs a 180 degrees sweeping kick, knocking all of the men over. He then bolts over to their leader, still knocked down on the ground, and puts his prosthetic arm's hook around the leader's neck like a noose. Ilyia's look of horror has transformed into one wearing wide sparkly eyes watching on with awe.

"I guess this settles it. Answer me now. Will you leave this place and never come back here again?" Almeric inches the sharp part of his hook ever so slightly towards the leader's neck.

"W-we'll leave, alright? So let me go!" The leader squealed.

Almeric raised him up to his feet and gave a hard kick on his back, sending him towards the other men. All of them scurry away immediately like prey running away from its predator, a completely different look from how much aggression they were displaying prior.

Almeric sighs and tries to avoid eye contact with both the children and Ilyia, walking back towards into the shelter. However, to his dismay, his attempt in doing so has failed miserably.

The children are now crowding around him with Ilyia at the center of it all.

"You were amazing! Thank you for saving us all!" Ilyia put her hands together in an expression of joy.

"It was nothing. Now, let me go back to my duties." He sounded so cold that the children who were in a jovial and celebrative mood just moments ago all fell silent.

"Now, run along and go play." The children nodded their heads with hints of fear and scattered. He continues to wear the same emotionless expression and attempts to leave without even looking at Ilyia, but fails in doing so yet again. Ilyia could sense that he's completely uninterested in forming relationships with anyone here at the shelter, but she decides to attempt to talk to him anyway.

"We haven't been properly introduced ever since you got here, right? So.. let's start this off on the right foot! It's nice to meet you, I'm Ilyia--"

"Cthulhurin. I know that much. You probably already know my name as well. See you around." Almeric cuts her off and tried to leave again.

"I-I was a nurse, so feel free to talk to me if you need help with anything!" She stares intently at his prosthetic arm.

"Like for example, if you are experiencing any phantom pain..."

Almeric is starting to get annoyed and is getting slightly ticked off by her comment about phantom pain.

"No, there's no phantom pain at all. The pain that I've been through in the war is much greater than simply losing my arm."

Not knowing what to reply, Ilyia simply stares at him with a concerned look on her face.


Almeric starts to leave.

"P-please try to get along with everyone here! Everyone actually really wants to get to know you better!" Ilyia screams after him. Almeric stopped walking and turned around to face her, wearing the same stone cold emotionless expression on his face.

"Making friends in a world like this? No thank you, I'd rather not."

Ilyia just realized that the psychological wounds he have gotten during the war are probably far greater than the scars on his body, but she isn't going to give up now, after she had finally worked up the courage to speak to him properly for the first time.

"You're still young and able, there's still a future for you out there somewhere in this world! So, please don't give up on hope.."

Almeric's mouth gaped open for a moment before he delivers his reply to Ilyia.

"You're calling me young, but you're younger than me, aren't you? Stop trying to maintain this positive facade. I've seen the documents. You're suffering from an incurable disease, aren't you? That's why you're here in this wretched place. There's no hope to be found in this world anymore, so don't feed me these sweet words that came from the rose-tinted glasses you see the world through from your facade. All I got from this country's trash government for participating in the war is a prosthetic arm that barely worked for a few days, and a living space in this shelter. That's how doomed our reality is." Almeric brushes her off in a condescending tone with a tinge of aggression. He was about to turn and leave again after giving her a piece of his mind, but he stopped again, taken aback by a sobbing Ilyia.

"Y-y-you're a horrible person!" Ilyia sobs loudly.

"Ah. Did I go too far? She's in shambles from hearing my words.. Good grief, what should I do about this.." He thought to himself.

Despite the grueling pain from the damage her organs suffered, how weak her body felt at times and how she knows she can die anytime, Ilyia drew strength from seeing the smiles of the children at the shelter. She knows that the reality is grim, and the world has no more hope left in it anymore, but she would rather grit her teeth and show a positive exterior to the people around her.

"I'm going to die soon anyway, so let's just live day to day and focus on the things I have in front of me. That way, I can probably find a reason to live again." Ilyia told herself this in an attempt to remain positive in her dire situation. But in reality, she's really afraid of dying and doesn't want to die. So she simply acts like there's nothing wrong with both herself and the world and tries to be positive to avoid the fact that she'll die.

Her sobbing soon turns into bawling, the reality of her situation crashing down on her once again. Almeric is shook by her reaction, and feels a mixture of both guilt and remorsefulness. No matter how cynical a person he has grown to become, he still realizes that he had just made an innocent girl cry.

Ilyia's crying ceased immediately when she feels a hand over her head. Her tear-soaked eyes look up, seeing a red-faced Almeric patting her head while looking away.

"I-I'm sorry for saying all that, so please just stop crying, alright..?" He tries his best to speak in a tone as soft as possible. Almeric acts cold towards everyone, but even he couldn't stand seeing a girl cry because of him.

"My words were too harsh, but look around us.. The world's really done for. Barely a single tree can be seen around us, debris and rubble pave the way, the sea levels are at an all-time high.. Ah, I shouldn't be saying this now, I'm sorry.." Almeric's cold and emotionless attitude has completely melted from his feelings of guilt.

Ilyia wipes her tears and smiled at him.

"Apology accepted! The juxtaposition of the you I see now and the you that was so harshly raining down on me earlier.. Hehe, i think that's pretty cute of you!" She has completely shaken off all negative feelings, giggling happily.

"Y-you're smiling now! Was that just all an act earlier.. Nevermind, good that you're fine now..." Almeric is completely flustered.

Realizing that she had just bawled her eyes out and how that led to the usually cold Almeric to act this way, the situation could turn awkward very soon with him all red. Embarrassment from crying like a baby started to kick in.

"Y-you have something to do, right? That's why you were in such a hurry to leave earlier! I shouldn't take up more of your time, I'll see you around!" Ilyia forces a polite smile at Almeric.

"Y-yeah, see you around." Almeric leaves the scene hastily.

Ilyia lets out a sigh of relief.

"Everything turned out just fine in the end, huh.. The bad people were driven away, I got Almeric to open up to me, even if it's only me, slightly... Although I had to go through all those harsh words.."

"But I said I'll forgive him!" Ilyia peps up immediately, and heads back into the shelter with a spring in her step.

A few hours later, both Almeric and Ilyia stare out the window from their rooms before dinnertime.

The both of them were coincidentally looking at the same sight: the risen sea level with abandoned warships littered all over the surface, with what used to be living land space now just pieces of litter on the sea.

"The sea... it's oddly tranquil, but also eerily signifies the end of the world.." Both their thoughts synced in that very moment. The war no longer rages on as fiercely, but the scars of it remain; On the world, and on the bodies of Almeric and Ilyia. 

Taylor Victoria
Joe Gold