Chapter 30:

The Road More Travelled: B-side Prologue, part 2

Setting Sun Story: Beta

“The Forsaken Blade will be reclaimed, by you three,” the Head Deacon commands.Bookmark here

Sitting among the rubble of the Central Square café, Erin, Jun, and Rain listen for their orders. Taron sits across, under the empty space of a broken window, his arms crossed and eyes closed.Bookmark here

“I hate to be the bearer of bad news here, but some of us aren’t in too good’a shape,” Erin tries, scratching at the back of his neck while looking over to Rain.Bookmark here

The soldier’s chest is bandaged up, his arm in a sling, and his right leg in a cast. He finally has a real crutch sitting beside him.Bookmark here

“No need to worry about me, just fo-,” Rain starts.Bookmark here

“Yeah yeah, focus on yourselves. But wasn't it you that first believed that we should think about who was holding us back?" Erin spits, leaning forward to see beyond Jun, who sits in the middle of the group. "Am I wrong?"Bookmark here

“I’ll be okay in a few days, it’ll take far longer than that to even reach the blade!” Rain cuts back, in a corner by the blatantly obvious logic.Bookmark here

Erin stands up, facing Rain directly.Bookmark here

“Not one of us has been outside the walls yet, who knows what we’ll face out there?”Bookmark here

Jun itches her temple, refraining from speaking.Bookmark here

Rain grabs the crutch under his left arm, bringing himself into Erin’s face.Bookmark here

“This is just like you, isn’t it? You talk all this bullshit of teamwork, but really you care about glory, just like everyo-“Bookmark here

“BOYS!” Taron unleashes, his gaze only partly drawn. Thinking around his next step, Taron has no time for their squabbles.Bookmark here

The heated soldiers both shamefully turn back to the Head Deacon, waiting emotionless.Bookmark here

“In hospital, Rain was treated with a micro dose of crystalline Savior’s blood…Bookmark here

The Deacon’s announcement shocks Taron, investing his concern fully in the conversation.Bookmark here

“The wounds should heal exceptionally fast, and the power of that blood, even in a small amount, rivals the ability of the Forsaken Blade itself,” the prophet finishes.Bookmark here

They’re gambling, Taron thinks, knowing the cost of the crystal chunks.Bookmark here

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From outside, pushing his way through the debris of the restaurant awning, a young messenger appears in dark robes, the same robes Adam would wear in the library.Bookmark here

“Sir! Zalach’s body has been discovered in the Northeast End!”Bookmark here

As the young Deacon’s assistant looks on with worried eyes, not one of the conspirators can respond.Bookmark here

Zalach’s showmanship meant he would never go unheard, so their fears were locked… but to hear it now, the young, carefree knight of Baustas’ legacy. Gone.Bookmark here

Taron stands from his seat on the sill, shards of glass breaking beneath his boot.Bookmark here

He allows the silence to prevail for a moment. Before opening his mouth, and waiting for words to come.Bookmark here

“Have you any doubts, Erin?” Taron asks calmly, revealing momentarily a sympathetic nature.Bookmark here

“Zalach fulfilled his duties to the end. Will you carry on in his stead?”Bookmark here

Jun hasn’t spoken a word, at first, thinking of the plans and lives that went awry, but now, her lips purse into a frown, a deep clenching in her cheeks the only thing keeping tears from flooding the café floor.Bookmark here

Zalach was a brother… truly. To think he would die, she still owing him a heavy debt of gratitude.Bookmark here

The boys know not how to comfort her, both looking to Taron, who once housed her, for support.Bookmark here

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Her efforts would fail, and tears would be shed. With a glistening still in the corner of her eyes, the afternoon sky became overcast, leading the youth of the Liberators to the foot of their journey…Bookmark here

The West Gate of Baustas.Bookmark here

Erin and Jun stand before the path leading out into the world.Bookmark here

The ocean just visible beyond the hills and rocks, and the 3 o’ clock Sun, hovering just below the clouds, painting it all in pink and gray.Bookmark here

Jun sighs silently.Bookmark here

“How long has it been?” She whispers to herself.Bookmark here

Erin peers over.Bookmark here

“You say something?”Bookmark here

Shaking her head, Jun gives a faint smile.Bookmark here

“Just ignore me.”Bookmark here

With the click of his crutch, Rain comes in from behind.Bookmark here

“Have a look at this,” he opens, something held limply, dangling from his right hand.Bookmark here

Coming next to them, he props up a silver cylinder in his left hand, before immediately getting lost in the ocean-top Sun.Bookmark here

“Out with it,” Erin presses.Bookmark here

“Ah- right. A compass.”Bookmark here

Upon its front, etched in, is the symbol of the Savior, with the Aetherical infinity glyph of Chaos, widely drawn around it, circling the arms and crossing at the heart of the Savior.Bookmark here

Sliding his thumb beneath the seam, it pops open, revealing a small, red pointer, spinning about every which way.Bookmark here

“What’s it doing now?” Jun asks, hovering over the small device.Bookmark here

“When we get farther from the city, it should begin to point in the sword’s direction, giving us a straight shot,” Rain explains, closing it down.Bookmark here

“Maybe someone who can walk should carry it then?” Erin pokes.Bookmark here

Rain chooses not to comment further, stepping out onto the dirt.Bookmark here

“Let’s leave before it gets too late.”Bookmark here

Jun nods in agreement.Bookmark here

"Ah, here comes the boring part," Erin sighs, looking at the road ahead.Bookmark here

Jun throws her head over her shoulder.Bookmark here

"You're crazy! You finally get to take it all in!"Bookmark here

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From afar, Taron and the Head Deacon watch them set out, unaware of what battles may lie in their future.Bookmark here

A small boy carrying a large shovel passes by, only noticing Taron afterward. The shovel drags along the stone as he turns to look at the champion.Bookmark here

"Whoa, Taron Tallsoul? He has the spear and everything!" The kid yells, amazed.Bookmark here

Taron nods to the boy before he's pulled away by his father.Bookmark here

Looking to the ground in uncertainty, Taron shuffles his heel in the cobble.Bookmark here

"How many times have I faltered, yet they still see me a hero?" The wolf asks in his usual depressed and deep tone.Bookmark here

"The Savior does not judge one by their misfortunes, but by the weight of their merits... and the weight of their sins," comes a snakelike response from the Deacon. "Let the people view you as they wish, for you have a duty... an oath to uphold, even when times become tough."Bookmark here

"Of course."Bookmark here

"They must repent, Chosen One, and you will see to it."Bookmark here

Taron agrees, but still seems distracted.Bookmark here

"What weights upon you?" The Head Deacon asks. "It's your daughter, isn't it?"Bookmark here

"I can feel her presence still, somewhere on the horizon."Bookmark here

Nodding several times, the Head Deacon puts a hand on Taron's shoulder.Bookmark here

"She is a valuable asset... The Savior foresaw this moment, Chosen One. You will return her to us."Bookmark here

Taron follows the wind, a feeling that has not once in many, many years graced this city, to the East.Bookmark here

"I will leave at once."Bookmark here

The Deacon grants it with a soft motion of the arm.Bookmark here

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Standing at the gate opposite his unit, Taron feels the wind again. Somehow, it guides him, like a wolf... her scent on the breeze.Bookmark here

"Uhh, Tallsou- uhh, Capt- no... *ahem* Sir!" Shouts a voice from behind.Bookmark here

A hand against his forehead, saluting incorrectly, a bandage on his left eye and a wobble in his step, Julian waits.Bookmark here

"There isn't much for me to do here, I'm the last of my unit, Sir. Allow me to join you!"Bookmark here

Taron scowls, but sensing a familiar optimism, ushers the young soldier along.Bookmark here

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