A Moribund Hero
Leon said a prayer over a small animal's carcass before incinerating it to ash.
He then reset the time on his watch and glanced up to a cloudless, drab sky.
No signs of rain. Indeed, from his internal knowledge banks, HiRock hadn't had any for over a decade. Yet, water was abundant in small rock ponds and streams derived from underground caches, which relied on sources from the distant mountain ranges and brooks connected to larger rivers and the faraway ocean.
He spent some time picking and cleaning nearby aloe vera leaves to store in his hip satchel bag before heading out.
Between blood-feeding, he ate plants, vegetables, nuts, and fruits to replenish and balance his minerals. Whatever was edible he gathered.
Traveling in the daytime was taxing due to the arid climate. Fortunately, his mouth scarf retained moisture to ensure easier breathing, and the hat's shade protected his pale face from sunburn. Eating the aloe vera further aided his endurance.
Toward the early afternoon, the winds had eased during his trekking further inland. Dust clouds had settled to a minimum.
Night time was cooler and more comfortable. He found a dry fissure to rest in and used the moment to revise his offline knowledge of the country and its people.
"Magic is a sin, huh?" He sighed as he internally read a general wiki article.
Probably just as well. Apart from the short sparks on animal carcasses, he wasn't keen to use stronger spells. Doing so would devour a lot of his oxygen.
He checked the time and coordinates on his watch. So far, he was able to avoid human contact, being on the outskirts.
It was only a matter of time before he had some kind of run-in with a local. His current position placed him close to a small village on the outskirts of the first major settlement - Scarf City. Regardless, he had to make it to his promised destination.
He pulled out and turned over a silver-gold amulet in his hands. It was a simple silver chain holding a circular gold charm. At the charm's center was the pattern of a lotus flower in full bloom.
A smile twitched on his thin lips at a rare fond memory and the time he had received the chain from the rare, kind elderly nurse at his House. She called the charm an Amulet of Gaia. As she was nursing him back to health from his enhancement failure, she told him the wonders of the goddess.
Gaia is Our Mother of all life. Everything is connected to her. Our actions, thoughts, and choices; our very existences are like threads looped and tied into each other as a webbed fabric covering the world. She guides our threads to ensure that we return what we take from her Earth. And the world continues to exist. Man came before machines, yet we allowed them to rule our minds and disrespect Our Mother. We are not meant for this Golden Age. You are not meant for this, Leon.
At first, he had been shocked by the old nurse's words. For she had called the world, Earth. And spouted complete blasphemy. A conversation enough to condemn her before a re-education squad or be burned at the House of Trials' High Fane pyres for heresy.
It was her unwavering firmness behind her words that impressed him. She had obviously found inner strength in believing another truth at the end of her life and was willing to trust it to him since he was facing his end.
But his end wasn't that day. She handed him the amulet and made him an offer of the ability to live with his condition to fulfill a promise. She had determined his malfunction similar to hypoxemia, but he needed other blood cells to refill his own. Yet, he could eat as much non-animal life Gaia had placed before him to balance and restock other required minerals in-between replenishing.
She had helped him escape the House compounds with all he needed to take off for HiRock.
For the first time in his twenty years, he was facing another facet of the world on some other authority's orders. Scared and excited would be an understatement. Nevertheless, he had a duty. One final warrior's honor to a recent truth that he wholeheartedly accepted.
He refitted the amulet around his neck and beneath his collar. Rechecked the bullet clips of his dirty-silver Magnum 45 handguns. Docked them, then rested against the rock for shut-eye.
Heavy, regular, droning snapped him to his senses. He woke alert and ready for action. The droning was drawing near. A methodical crunching of stone.
"A tank?" He mused and used a bit of his micro-scans to survey the terrain, but it was tiring him, so he reverted to his natural sight.
Carefully, he picked his way out of the rock fissure and into a corridor opening, where he faced a valley bowl filled with tree corpses and many rock boulder crops.
Dust clouds gathered around the area.
A heady stench of sulfur and iron wafted about his nose. Telltale signs of expelled magic and gunfire.