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.

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.

“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.

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.

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

“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?"

“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.

Erin stands up, facing Rain directly.

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

Jun itches her temple, refraining from speaking.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“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.

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

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.

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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…

The West Gate of Baustas.

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

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.

Jun sighs silently.

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

Erin peers over.

“You say something?”

Shaking her head, Jun gives a faint smile.

“Just ignore me.”

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

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

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

“Out with it,” Erin presses.

“Ah- right. A compass.”

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.

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

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

“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.

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

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

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

Jun nods in agreement.

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

Jun throws her head over her shoulder.

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

"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."

"Of course."

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

Taron agrees, but still seems distracted.

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

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

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

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

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

"I will leave at once."

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

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

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

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

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

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