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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

Somewhere up there lies Baustas.Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

"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.Bookmark here

Nothing to do but walk.Bookmark here

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

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

The Savior gave you this, be brave...Bookmark here

brave...Bookmark here

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

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

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

But really, what am I thinking?!Bookmark here

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

He grabs at the pain in his skull.Bookmark here

"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.Bookmark here

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

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

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.Bookmark here

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

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.Bookmark here

Ven can only watch.Bookmark here

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

"Do you... want-"Bookmark here

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

"To hold my hand?"Bookmark here

The remark blindsides Adam.Bookmark here

His tears stop, and his shakes subside.Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

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

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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.Bookmark here

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

Ven flips around, walking backwards down the trail.Bookmark here

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

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

"A couple hours?!"
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Ven gives off a half smile, testing the waters of how much leniency Adam can handle in his manic state.Bookmark here

"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.Bookmark here

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

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

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

Adam's lost in the moment again.Bookmark here

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

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

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

"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!"Bookmark here

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

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

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

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.Bookmark here

"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.Bookmark here

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

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

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

"He'd just shrug."Bookmark here

Adam is dumbfounded.Bookmark here

"So there isn't one."Bookmark here

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

"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. Bookmark here

The leaves shake behind them, and out pops Ven.Bookmark here

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

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

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Stepping into the forest, the world changes once more.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

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

Adam steps back nervously.Bookmark here

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

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

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

He was wrong.Bookmark here

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

"Ah-" Ven vocalizes.Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It lands, and scurries away.Bookmark here

Ven looks down as his open wound leaks.Bookmark here

"Shit."Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

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

Arrabelle doesn't respond, her lips pursed.Bookmark here

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

Arrabelle wishes not to engage further, walking off.Bookmark here

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

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

"Yeah, no problem."Bookmark here

"You sure?"Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

You can resume reading from this paragraph.