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.Bookmark here

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

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

"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-"Bookmark here

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

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

The Burning City - The HeroBookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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

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

The Savior shows His love in mysterious ways.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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?Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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...Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

A face appears before him. Clara.Bookmark here

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

The sight shocks Adam to his core.Bookmark here

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

Sanctuary - Adam - MorningBookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

Huh?Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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

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

"How's your head?"Bookmark here

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

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

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

"You've probably got a concussion."Bookmark here

"What even, happened last night?"Bookmark here

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

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?Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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

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.Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

Oliphant takes the book from his pocket.Bookmark here

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

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

"Give that to me!" He orders.Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

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

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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

Oliphant closes in behind.Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adam looks down to the book.Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

I'm such a hateful little-Bookmark here

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

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

"Yeah?"Bookmark here

"Who are you?"Bookmark here

The Luminian crosses his arms.Bookmark here

"Sometimes I wonder myself..."Bookmark here

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

The man smiles and scratches his head.Bookmark here

"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.Bookmark here

"Luminian?" Adam asks, turning his head.Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

Ven shrugs.Bookmark here

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

The political comment obviously goes over Adam's head.Bookmark here

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

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

"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.Bookmark here

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

"Th-thanks."Bookmark here

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

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

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

ArrabelleBookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

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

Arrabelle turns to the water.Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She's never been aimless before...Bookmark here

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

Ven can't help but laugh.Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

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

Her eyes grow large and worrisome beneath her veil.Bookmark here

"How do I make them pay for this?"Bookmark here

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

He sighs.Bookmark here

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

Arrabelle glances over.Bookmark here

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

"Really?"Bookmark here

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

A faint upturn appears on her lips.Bookmark here

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

"Fuck no."Bookmark here

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

"So what do we do?" Arrabelle asks.Bookmark here

"Head North, whenever you two are ready."Bookmark here

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

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

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

Arrabelle exhales.Bookmark here

"Paulcin. Interesting."Bookmark here

Adam - A few minutes later...Bookmark here

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

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

"Nah, rest up for a bit."Bookmark here

After nodding, Adam notes hearing them.Bookmark here

"You piss her off?"Bookmark here

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

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

Ven smiles as he heads down the path.Bookmark here

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

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

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

"Alright, Adam."Bookmark here

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

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

"Y-you know my name?"Bookmark here

She ignores the question.Bookmark here

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

"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..."Bookmark here

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

Arrabelle takes his hand, squeezing it tight.Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

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

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

"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!'"Bookmark here

Adam thinks for a minute.Bookmark here

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

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

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

"Ahhh! You're both psychopaths!"Bookmark here

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

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

"You're no exception!"Bookmark here

She ignores that.Bookmark here

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

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

Her eyes glance out at the horizon.Bookmark here

"Somewhere out there is Lumina."Bookmark here

"And?"Bookmark here

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

Adam slumps his body, letting out a sigh.Bookmark here

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

He nods. Bookmark here

"I understand."Bookmark here

Once more, they let silence take its course.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

A tear cascades down again.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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

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

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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!Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.