Chapter 28:

Sea Legs: A-side Prologue

Setting Sun Story: Beta


"Alright then, to the beach!" Ven calls out with somewhat more enthusiasm than the recently tortured teens.

His hands run softly through the golden grass that stands tall in the plains erupted beside him, leading the charge through the thin dirt path that cuts it all apart like a sorcerer in the sea.

Adam fails to hold his focus, instead gazing up the cliffs to his left, watching beyond the forest atop it, up to a billowing stack of smoke.

Somewhere up there lies Baustas.

An anxious Arrabelle taps him on the arm, nudging Adam along.

"Let's get it a move on," she recommends, tugging him softly.

He doesn't resist, hanging his head to the ground and following.

It's quite a way's on now, but the entrance to a wooded area sits at the end of the path.

"We'll reach Aritonia once we're beyond this forest, there, we should be safe for awhile," Ven explains, an excited and uncertain skip in his step.

Nothing to do but walk.

The vast and endless blue to the East is still mesmerizing, but the aches and worry in Adam's mind clutch him close.

Even among the unsurmountable beauty of this, every dream is dead.

The Savior gave you this, be brave...

brave...

A pang strikes against his heart, and an overwhelming burning rises in the back of his neck, wrapping around his ears.

An unbeatable horror, and unalienable truth. How could he be expected to carry on? 

Just a few hours prior, he believed he had some sense of duty.

But really, what am I thinking?!

Massive shakes echo through his bones as the heat rises from his ears and seeps into his brain.

He grabs at the pain in his skull.

"I'll never see her again! None of them, it's all gone. I'm alone!" He screams, dropping into the dirt on his knees.

"Mo- mom, mom, where are you? I can't do this on my own I nee-"

Wait. Why can't I remember? What did she even look like? What did she sound like? Who am I even crying for?

Through the heat and electricity circling his head again and again, he can't remember anything. Not a single thing about his life. It was over so soon. Everything already passed, never to be experienced again.

"Adam! Adam, get up! You were doing okay earlier, just breathe!" Arrabelle cries, throwing the boy from side to side.

Adam's bloodshot, tear-filled eyes leave the ground as he latches to Arrabelle's ragged clothes. All he wants is comfort, some... any security. Just to feel in control, at last capable of fighting the world again.

Ven can only watch.

"What do you need?" She asks Adam, begging him to lift himself up.

"Do you... want-"

She can't get the words out, it's such an embarrassing sentiment.

"To hold my hand?"

The remark blindsides Adam.

His tears stop, and his shakes subside.

Finding himself on the ground in the middle of nowhere, he stands ashamed, brushing the dirt from his knees.

I'm a child. What good is a child to a God?

"N- no. I'm sorry," Adam replies, averting his eyes to the far ocean.

The blood and heat has left his neck, centering itself in his cheeks. All he can do is walk.


Arrabelle walks awkwardly, running everything over and over. She glances occasionally; surely, she's come across as soft to Ven.


Another ten or twenty minutes later, the break in the trees leading to the oncoming forest is in sight. While clouds have moved in, turning the sky gray, it's even darker within.

"Hey uhh, Ven? Hate to admit it but, gettin' kinda hungry here," Arrabelle hesitantly states.

Ven flips around, walking backwards down the trail.

"We can eat once we enter the city, should only be a couple hours."

Adam and Arrabelle exchange looks. Together, they air their grievance.

"A couple hours?!"

Ven gives off a half smile, testing the waters of how much leniency Adam can handle in his manic state.

"Geez, you guys were pampered in there, huh? Yeah. Couple of hours. We could try to catch something, but I gotta say I'm not much of a hunter myself, and you two... well, you'd be worthless wouldn't you?" Ven explains, stopping to eye the forest entrance.

The arching of the thick tree branches gives it a cave-like feel, blocking out much of the fleeting light above.

"You guys'll be fine, just follow me!" He says, before plunging into the unknown.

They've walked far enough that the only visible remnants of the city are behind them now; the cloud of dark smoke waving goodbye.

Adam's lost in the moment again.

"We'll make 'em pay for it, Adam," Arrabelle ensures from over his shoulder. "I promise."

"What's even the point? Why bother? The damage has been done, we're alone now," He deflects in a monotone voice.

They'll eat us like they did Baustas. I honestly might prefer it.

"What was I thinking?" Adam continues in rant. "Some kind of hero? Look at me, I'm already worthless! How did they do it?! How did Taron do it? At least they had something to fight for!"

"You don't want to be like him. Believe me," Arrabelle cuts in.

"He was heartless, that's how he did it."

"So I just need to shut off my body? Ignore it all?! That's what I've been idolizing?"

Arrabelle slides the great-sword she's had slung up down into her hands. Just moving it carves through the air, enough so to grab Adam's attention.

"No, I knew someone who did it out of love, I know it's possible," she says, looking at her wobbly reflection in the metal. The green strokes beneath the surface remind her of veins.

"I asked a hell of a lot of questions too, once. He'd tell me the same thing every time."

"Then what is it? What's the answer to this?"

Arrabelle laughs a little bit to herself, but stifles it before Adam.

"He'd just shrug."

Adam is dumbfounded.

"So there isn't one."

Arrabelle heaves the blade back to comfortable spot to hold in one arm.

"I'm just one person. I don't even have it figured out. But I'll prove it to you, it's worth going on, even just to make 'em shove it," she comments harshly. 

The leaves shake behind them, and out pops Ven.

"What happened to being hungry? You guys coming or what?"

With that interruption, Arrabelle convinces him to at least keep moving.


Stepping into the forest, the world changes once more.

The overcast light of the plains suddenly darkens to a deep green, the trees blocking most of the already clouded sun, leaving a snaking gray and gold pattern along the ground.

The flora is immensely dense, leaving only a few feet of vision beyond the path. The thicket, every which way, shakes with the life of the woods, as if the greenery beckons softly in the dull and dusty woodland air.

The ground is scattered with fallen leaves, grassy patches and decaying bark, this path isn't often used. Not many would venture so close to Baustas, unless on a warpath.

Adam has entered behind, a few moments after his companions.

"What is that?" Arrabelle whispers over to Ven, her blade drawn.

As Adam nears their side, she shoots an arm out to stop him, the heavy sword swinging to the dirt.

"Stay quiet, both of you," Ven chimes in, displaying a seriousness yet unseen.

The brush to their left shakes furiously, causing the two battle ready individuals to remain motionless.

Adam steps back nervously.

"Stop-" Ven starts to whisper, as Adam's foot presses down on a branch.

The movement in the brush stops, and Ven drops his guard.

"Maybe you scared it away, nice going kid!-" He starts at full volume.

He was wrong.

Coming out of the bush, a small animal, with light-brown, almost orange fur, and a white underbelly.

"Ah-" Ven vocalizes.

It stops halfway across the path, looking up at the travelers.

"Would you look at that! He's kinda cute," Ven exclaims, smiling down at the furball.

"It looks like it could really dig into you with those teeth," Arrabelle notices.

Ven turns to his side, raising an eyebrow at Arrabelle.

Her face hides a fear. She's scared of the rodent.

"Y- you're joking right? I mean, you've kil-"

Just then, blowing forth from the shrubbery, hundreds of others spring across the path.

Arrabelle leaps back as they squeak, rushing from end to end.

The noise is deafening, such small beings creating one loud engine.

"WHAT THE HELL DO WE DO?!" Arrabelle yells over the squirrels.

"WOULD YOU RELAX? THEY'RE HARMLESS!"

The stampede passes, leaving both boys quietly staring at Arrabelle.

"See? Now the real question is, what they were running from," Ven wonders, looking at the brush.

Helpless rodents aren’t all that reside in these woods.

Ven is trained to be quick on instinct, but does that beat the speed of a predator?

Fangs lash out as Ven’s finger licks across the air.

The jagged tooth of a wolf punctures his palm, just as he signs and punches through a symbol of Water.

The blast of water snaps at the wolf’s snout, throwing it across the trail as blood leaps from Ven’s nicked hand.

Whipping his hips and his arm, he slides his spear out, grabbing it at the bottom end in his right hand.

As the wolf turns to defend itself, Ven slashes, cutting it across the face, and pushing it back down.

It lands, and scurries away.

Ven looks down as his open wound leaks.

"Shit."

Arrabelle rips the cloth from her collar, roughly taking Ven's hand.

"Oi, that doesn't look awfully sterile- AH HAA!" Ven yelps, the tattered clothing tightly winding around his hand.

With one last pull, Ven winces, blood staining the wrapping.

"For someone who fights so much, you don't handle pain well," Arrabelle taunts, signaling Adam ahead.

"Oh shut up, I saw you last night!" Ven bites, clearly hurt.

Arrabelle doesn't respond, her lips pursed.

"Quite the attachment you got to that thing," Ven pushes, nodding his head at the sword.

Arrabelle wishes not to engage further, walking off.

Adam turns around and looks at Ven's hand, wincing.

"You alright?" Adam summons, still kind of lost in himself.

"Yeah, no problem."

"You sure?"

Ven, fed up, slaps Adam in the back of the head.

"What's that about?!" He cries.

"I can't hit her," Ven replies, staring Arrabelle down.

"That doesn't mean you should take it out on me!"