Chapter 24:

Akatsuki: End of Stage 1

Setting Sun Story: Beta


Forfeit all that you are... and let the flames of a hero fill your spirit; the only thing that matters. Bet it all. Your life, your future, your family. You wish for the intangible, not a soul in a thousand miles would dare try to dream such a thing. Prove that it makes you more than mere Man.

As his body is swept into the air, Adam comprehends the myriad colors of the forest, and far ocean beyond.

"Everything changes now, doesn't it? For the first time, what I want is in sight, not locked behind a vision or a daydream.

"No. It isn't a dream... the world of color has entered my view... the moon shines so bright here. This was always reality, and Baustas a dream- that's what I choose to believe. From now on, I will live ou-"

Adam's moonlit revelation is harshly cut short, as a different reality hits him; one very easy to understand, physically comprehensible... a tree.

Against his bullying subconscious, the satisfaction of his new skyline will disappear.

The Burning City - The Hero

His head hanging out of a tower window, the Hero watches down over the red city; a land in golden walls, every building as tall and grand as a castle.

Embers and ash float by, flowing in from the window and landing at his feet.

Ruby glitters in a blue sky, slowly enveloped in a fleeting vibrancy as the sun rises, and the smoke clouds bloom.

The Savior shows His love in mysterious ways.

Frozen in time, the Hero can do nothing, as an unknown God has smitten down his world; even after he found his heart in saving it from his twin, the mirror faced evil wizard, even after besting the giants, and their faceless, mindless servants.

He has become paralyzed, alone in the high castle after witnessing his queen crushed to death beneath the whims of the people's changing world.

Answering my prayers, after so long. After keeping me and so many others hostage for years. 

Because of me, He takes all that was built behind the windowless walls of Baustas, and pushes it down into the dirt, six feet under, questioning why we never learned to fight back.

The window and accompanying city is no longer, and Adam, dressed in the Hero's armor, stands before the East gate of Baustas, looking in at a dark, empty land of stone.

You don't have our sentimentality though, do you? I was spared from it all. I didn't have to prove anything to you. Are you trying to show me something? Am I piece of your puzzle? To put these thoughts in me, to help me dream of a paradise away from my darkest moments?

Adam turns his back on the fortress of Chaos, the Red Dot, Baustas, locking eyes with the moon, a bursting orb of blue over the fields of yellow grass in the plains outside the forest.

Part of me wants to understand you, Savior. Pressure to mold me into shape. Tragedy to understand the eternity of suffering you've overcome. If it'll help me grow, to one day carry out your prophecy...

The color I'll seek is within the people. To stop the egregious rage of humanity. To cast the color of a nature's moon on the dark, bloodstained hearts of a tainted mankind.

A face appears before him. Clara.

Her eyes, only sockets, blacked out in darkness. An open, empty jaw, and pale skin covering gaunt cheeks.

The sight shocks Adam to his core.

How can one ignore their own human self? How can one escape their perils? How do I let go?

Sanctuary - Adam - Morning

In a sleepy black cocoon, Adam hears the trickling flow of a slow river. The soft percussion of wind beats against the grass around him, an unfamiliar sound... strange, he must be dreaming still.

When next he opens his crusty eyes, a dome of light blue fills into a blurry view. This painted sky is wrapped in a horseshoe of cliffside, encompassing the cool, breezy sanctuary in a morning shadow.

Adam thinks nothing of it all, his mind still crawling at a snail's pace. Tired, his lids slip back down, and he drifts off into slumber, accompanied by the strange coolness.

Huh?

His eyes blink back open, as he stares suddenly awake, at the bright abyss, infinite colors streaming directly into his brain off of the sapphire canvas.

Turning his head to the side, Adam spots that man, Oliphant, he thinks they called him; standing, pacing back and forth in a circle of dirt freshly disturbed by his steps, surrounding a burnt out campfire, the embers still fizzling out on the ground.

Behind the man, the barrier that shades the area seems to be made up of white stones, just like the buildings in Baustas' center... but they aren't tinged in a sour red... they're white, pure grays and blacks, sprinkled with dirt, grass and fauna of the geography's natural structure, but WHITE. Blinding, beaming off of the colorful land around it.

Oliphant's armor is stripped, leaving him roomy loose pants, and a tank-top, the sides cut off to let air in. His latissimus muscles are immense, leaving Adam sickly drawn in, already jealous of his stature.

It takes a moment, but he notices something else, the foreigner is reading a book as he moves about- he glances to Adam, snapping it shut.

"Welcome back," He says in a comforting tone, bringing Adam to forget everything that transpired in the last twenty four hours.

He walks over, slipping down and crossing his legs next to Adam.

"How's your head?"

"My head?" Adam questions, feeling at his forehead and twinging in pain.

The sudden splitting headache causes him to rear up onto his butt, throwing his head into his hands.

"I wouldn't move so quickly..." Oliphant recommends, as Adam tries to breathe through it.

"You've probably got a concussion."

"What even, happened last night?"

"You got whipped by that dragon's tail, sent you straight into a tree," the blue-eyed stranger tries.

Adam is skeptical, he looks to Oliphant with squinting eyes. His back feels fine, and he faintly remembers Arrabelle's hand dragging him out of the city... Arrabelle?

"Alright, Arrabelle threw you in an attempt to not be killed by said dragon, that better?" He admits.

"Arrabelle," Adam says quietly to himself, his poor, burning head blocking the memory of such a person.

Oliphant stands up, walking out from the shade, to the slight edge of the sanctuary, where the sun hits.

"Man, you flew like a bird though! Quite the spectacle!" He jokes, turning around and letting the warm golden rays heat his back.

"Arrabelle?" Adam asks again, remembering it all. "No way!"

He looks to Oliphant in amazement, who smiles, pointing back over Adam's shoulder, who follows the direction.

Back in the deeper confines of the sanctuary, a river runs from a waterfall, flowing down the mountain above. The entire ring seems to be cut out of the land's shape, thus resulting in the crescent of protection.

Beside the waterfall lies the remnants of a monument, or some kind of temple, a collapsed entrance at the end of old brick stairs, surrounded by toppled and browned ancient bricks.

Even more noticeably so, Arrabelle, knee deep in a pond at the fall's base, her legs, face and arms dirtied, and her uniform, held up by her grasp, practically destroyed. She splashes around, trying, and failing to wash herself off.

"Why'd I have to get stuck in this stupid outfit, I look so dumb..." she mumbles to herself.

Oliphant shakes his head, popping his hands, and the book, into his deep, deep pockets, before sliding up next to Adam once more, putting an arm around his neck.

"You're a leg man, huh? She's a little tall for me, but..." Oliphant starts as Adam pulls away.

"How can you say something like that, right now?!" Adam exclaims.

Arrabelle catches their voices, her face swerving in their direction, her eyes wide like a deer in headlights.

The two boys go red, quickly turning away, pretending not to notice.

Oliphant takes the book from his pocket.

"So where'd you get this book?" He asks, inspecting the leather cover and naked back.

"What book-?" Adam starts, but quickly realizes.

"Give that to me!" He orders.

The man hands it over with no resistance, but Adam still snatches it up as if in battle.

The title is burnt in, reading, The Book of Paulcin's Journey, with a subtitle below etched in, and family.

"You know who Paulcin is?" Oliphant asks to Adam as the boy comes to his feet.

"Y-yeah... that's me. It's my last name," Adam responds blankly, his feet guiding him to the sunlit portion of the sanctuary.

The orange Sun hanging over the Eastern ocean at first blinds him, but as his eyes adjust, he glimpses out at the real world.

To the West, past the blocked sight of the mountain's wall, high on a plateau, smoke still rises from the walls of Baustas, only barely visible behind the cliffs and trees surrounding it.

To the North, immediately in front of him, the small river descends down into a massive crevasse, the only path over it, a small natural bridge from the sanctuary. It leads out into a large plain, covered end to end in golden grass, and two spires of stone, jutting high into the air. A single path carves through it, leading far into a forest ahead.

Beyond even that, a large mountain stretches from behind the Baustian plateau, to the edge of the ocean, covering what appears to be a massive tree, just as big in scale, canopying an even farther patch of land.

More flat grounds and mountain ranges bound off to the Northeast, all meeting with the same waters.

Oliphant closes in behind.

"Hey. sorry about what I said a minute ago..."

Adam doesn't respond, he's completely lost in the beauty of the wind running along the tall grass below.

"You've been through a lot... I couldn't possibly imagine what it must've been like from your point of view..."

The man looks down to his hand, folding tightly in it a small scrap of cloth.

"To think, this was right outside," Adam finally says.

The foreigner nods, sitting down and extending out his legs, bathing in the warmth.

"Kinda crazy isn't it? Such a beautiful sight from here. Not too often you really get to enjoy it though," Oliphant rants.

Adam looks down to the book.

"But what did it cost?" He groans, a tear beginning to trail out.

Oliphant sees it as a sign to take off, and begins to scoot away.

That dream... how could I say such selfish things about this? Am I really okay with her death? Calling myself some kind of hero?

"Anything to protect you..." the voice of Clara rings out in his skull.

I'm such a hateful little-

"Hey..." Adam stops to say in gritted teeth, wet stains coating each side of his lips.

Oliphant stops his silent departure, shooting his eyes over to the boy.

"Yeah?"

"Who are you?"

The Luminian crosses his arms.

"Sometimes I wonder myself..."

Adam looks up to him, his eyes glossy and red.

The man smiles and scratches his head.

"Oh... my name. Ven. Ven Oliphant. I'm a member of the Luminian infantry. Well, was. Committed a bit of treason last night," he chuckles.

"Luminian?" Adam asks, turning his head.

"Mhmm. Lumina," Ven corrects, pointing to a little badge on his shirt.

The symbol of a golden tower, topped with a blue radiant gem.

"You'll probably get to know them pretty well, seeing as you're a fugitive marked for death."

"Wh- why's that?!" Adam cries.

Ven shrugs.

"I dunno, I'm not the Queen... that's if she has any say in matters at this point."

The political comment obviously goes over Adam's head.

They sit in silence for a moment while Adam takes in more of the land.

"How did we get here?" Adam opens, questioning the long journey from the smoke he's assuming was his home.

"Me n' blondie had to carry you down that hill... see that?" Ven says, pointing to a small and steep trail drawing down from the plateau.

It too links with the plains beyond, connecting with the path to this place.

"Th-thanks."

"Mmm. No problem. After what they did to you..." Ven starts, "I'll just leave ya alone for a bit."

Adam nods in gratitude, and as Ven returns in to the alcove, takes in the golden world.

He pulls his arms out at his sides, feeling the wind push against him, cold against his drying tears.

Arrabelle

Arrabelle slinks out of the water, stepping from the dirt and rocks into the grass, plopping down on a log and raising her feet onto their heels to let her legs dry.

Ven approaches, planting himself on the same wood, facing the other way.

"How's he holdin' up?" She asks.

"That kid's got a whole lot to work through."

"I don't think you really understand... our entire lives burnt-"

"Yeah, I understand," Ven says, shutting it down before it gets emotional.

Arrabelle turns to the water.

"My one chance at a normal life," she whispers out of earshot.

"I mean, we don't even have a clue if anybody's alive!" She continues on anyway.

Arrabelle stands up while Ven watches out at Adam, worried for the boy.

"You're a soldier, right?" She asks, out of sight.

"Was. Even if it ended just yesterday, I'd rather not think about it..."

Ven hears something cut through the wind, turning to find Mountaincleaver at his back.

"Whoa, whoa, hang on here!" He yells.

"Just what the hell is your deal?" She pries, ready to swing.

"I'm on your side, remember?! You don't need a weapon to convince me!"

Taking a breath, she drops the tip of the blade down to the dirt... (holding it pointed like that is taxing).

It kicks up the ground into Ven's face, who spits and wipes it from him.

"What am I supposed to do?" She asks, her guard down as a soft whine creeps out.

She's never been aimless before...

"Who's ass do I have to kick for this?" She asks him seriously.

Ven can't help but laugh.

"Wh-what?!" He says suppressing himself.

"Don't you fucking-" Arrabelle says, heating up.

Ven waves his arms from side to side, motioning her to relax.

She sits back down beside him, her golden hair draping over her face as she looks down at her hands.

"Geez, you guys have no idea how the world works, do you?"

Her eyes grow large and worrisome beneath her veil.

"How do I make them pay for this?"

What a one track mind, Ven can tell that she's been on a similar path to his.

He sighs.

"Welp, I'm a dead man already, so I suppose thinking like that couldn't be all bad..."

Arrabelle glances over.

"I'll help you however I can," Ven confirms.

"Really?"

"Seeing as you'll saw me in two otherwise, yeah, take my word..."

A faint upturn appears on her lips.

"But..." Ven notes. "Also take my word that, 'making them pay' is a fucking death wish, you're better off going into hiding-"

"Fuck no."

"-but, I can tell where your heart is, I know there's no point in even trying that," he finishes.

"So what do we do?" Arrabelle asks.

"Head North, whenever you two are ready."

It takes Arrabelle a second, but she nods, letting Ven leave.

"Ah! Wait," She calls out. " You didn't catch his name, did you?"

"Mhmm, Adam. Adam Paulcin," he obliges.

Arrabelle exhales.

"Paulcin. Interesting."

Adam - A few minutes later...

Ven steps past Adam, down onto the narrow pathway as the boy sits in the grass.

"We going somewhere?" He calls up to the Luminian.

"Nah, rest up for a bit."

After nodding, Adam notes hearing them.

"You piss her off?"

"No, I think she's just normally like that."

"That's what I've heard," Adam adds.

Ven smiles as he heads down the path.

Adam watches carefully as he reaches the beginning of the plain, turning around to face something on the mountainside above.

Locked in interest, Adam stares as Ven closes his eyes, seemingly listening for something.

Further and further, Adam keeps watching, zoning out into Ven's actions.

"Alright, Adam."

The words scare him so much that he leaves the ground, hovering momentarily.

Beside him, Arrabelle is sitting, a newly fashioned ponytail draped over her shoulder.

"Y-you know my name?"

She ignores the question.

"As far as we know, you and I are the last Baustians," she starts, prompting Adam to gulp down worried air.

"We share something that nobody else in this world could understand. I'm sorry you have to share it with someone like me, with such a tarnished name..."

"What are you talking about?" Adam asks, genuinely confused.

Arrabelle takes his hand, squeezing it tight.

"But still, I want you to throw all of that aside and be- what do you mean, what am I talking about?"

"Tarnished name? You're legendary!" Adam insists.

Her cheeks flush. Taken aback, she's forgot what she was going to say.

"I... right... uh. Y-you and I, we're the last Baustians... the last line of defense!"

"M-mhmm?" Adam agrees, unsure why she recapped so quickly.

She stands up before him, standing tall, with her hands on her hips.

"You saw what they did. I don't know about you... but I can't let that stand! You and I, we're the last bastion against these 'Luminias!'"

Adam thinks for a minute.

"Bastion... hang on was that a fucking PUN?!"

Without saying another word, Arrabelle's lips purse slightly, she does all that she can to retain her stance.

Adam throws his head into his hands, crying out in pain, as he forgot about the wound.

"Ahhh! You're both psychopaths!"

Arrabelle turns to Ven, who still stands like a statue, completely unmoving.

"I agree. There's something weird about him."

"You're no exception!"

She ignores that.

"But you know, I've made the rash decision to trust him."

"What's your plan then?" Adam asks, unenthused by her pageantry.

Her eyes glance out at the horizon.

"Somewhere out there is Lumina."

"And?"

"That's as far as I've gotten."

Adam slumps his body, letting out a sigh.

"But I do know that I want you at my side. You're the only one I know is human."

He nods. 

"I understand."

Once more, they let silence take its course.

The Savior shows his love in mysterious ways. I know I can't beat the selfishness at my core... but even so, he's shown me reality, and given me people with good hearts.

A tear cascades down again.

I feel I can never make it up to Mom, my thoughts about her in life... but hopefully I can find a way to repent for it, to live up to the decisions I have to make.

Arrabelle notices his tears, and as her heart already beats at light speed from faking Zalach's style of speaking, she pulls him in close, her face beet red.

Adam is shocked, giving in to her touch as he lets tears flow freely.

"Get it out while you can... It'll be alright."



That's the end of Stage 1! Soon a short side chapter for Ven will be released, as well as a preview of what's to come in the second stage of the first season! Stick around, and look forward to the coming journey!