A Longing Dream I'd Even Burn The World For
It was bright the night it all began—bright with the flames of a burning town. A cloud of smoke blocked out the moons, and the stench of blood and burning wood permeated through the air. It was a sight Gaspard had seen more than once before, but that didn’t stop the heavy weight in his stomach from sinking deeper with every step forward he took.
The gravel that made up the pathway into the town crunched under his metal boots, but the crackling fire drowned out anything else from entering Gaspard’s ears.
At least there wasn’t any screaming.
He hated the screaming.
Those final signs of life evaporating into the air, leaving nothing but an agonizing echo—they’d kept him up at night for as long as he could remember. He would be lying if he said the thought of quitting his supposed valiant mission hadn’t crossed his mind, but an overwhelming sense of responsibility always pulled him back into the depths of this world.
If he wasn’t helping, he thought, then what about those people who he could’ve saved? Could he really live a lavish life of relaxation knowing that there were people out there dying from his lack of action?
No, he concluded. Even if it tortured him every night, this he had to do.
But how much more can I take…?
He asked himself as he stared at the engulfed corpses around him. At this point, you could barely tell that they were ever people, but the stench of burning flesh wasn’t one that could easily be forgotten. At some point they were alive. And maybe they’d still be if he’d arrived earlier.
A massive sign crashed to the ground, catching Gaspard’s attention. On it was spelled, in sloppy handwriting, “Blacksmith”.
A weak smile formed on his face.
He’d met the owner of that shop not even a month ago. Apparently, the owner’s son had written that sign to replace the old one they’d had since forever. A birthday present. That’s what now burned on the floor.
Every building there had people with stories to tell. Stories that would forever go untold.
The people of the town were some of the nicest townsfolk that he’d ever come across in his adventures. The way they welcomed outsiders with open arms was unheard of. They’d even gifted him materials and food.
Gaspard guessed it was that same friendliness that became their ruin.
Looking away from the blacksmith, he turned to an object at the very center of the town. A flag with an “X” formed by a halberd and a fauchard blew in the breeze. A ring of thorns surrounded the emblem.
A cold shiver ran up his spine.
But before he could assess the flag any further, his attention turned to a nearly inaudible sound coming from between the flames. Being an elf, his hearing was enhanced but still wasn’t the very best among the races. Yet, he could still decipher the faint sound as—
“…Coughing…” he whispered.
Someone was alive.
For now, that is.
With the fire and the smoke, there wasn’t much time left before that fact was irreversibly changed.
Gritting his teeth, he sprinted toward the origin of the sound.
The town was relatively small. Houses were built close to one another and there was a massive open area near the back where they grew their crops. Thankfully, because of that, finding anyone alive wouldn’t be too challenging. But because of the fire, he couldn’t recklessly charge ahead either.
“Is somebody out there?!” he yelled as he carefully ran through the narrow pathways of the town. The further he went along, the more bodies he came across, scorched, and brutally cut up. A fire burned in Gaspard’s chest, but he quickly doused it before it affected his concentration. “I’m here to help!” he continued.
His boots scraped against the gravel as he came to a hard stop. The coughing had stopped for a while, but he was sure he had to be around the place where he first heard it. If it wasn’t for the fire, maybe he could have a better read, he thought.
“Shit…” he murmured before clasping his hands together. Sucking in a breath full of smoke, he concentrated on his hands, imagining a ball of liquid forming in them. He silently chanted a few words in his mind until he felt moisture build up between the tiny gap left between his palms. Instantly, he separated his hands, exposing a small blue orb floating in the space between them, churning, contracting, then expanding.
The more space he added between his hands, the bigger the orb became. Once the orb was thirty-two centimeters in diameter, he slid his hands around it as if tracing an invisible wall around the orb. Once his hands were side to side in front of him, he raised his arms, palms to the sky, the orb following with him. After another deep breath, he made a pushing motion upwards, making the orb glow a bright blue before erupting in a geyser.
A tremendous boom rattled the crumpling town. Streaks of water fell upon the fiery landscape, slowly calming the raging flames.
A spell of this level was difficult for most, especially because he was using two at once. One to create the water and another to properly disperse it without it crashing down ferociously, probably causing more harm than good.
Even for an elf like himself, this was a herculean feat. One that he couldn’t hold out for long.
“Urgh…” he stumbled as he forced the spell to keep going. Water dripped from the orb to his hands, down his arms, and into his collar and torso. Although not much, it was still an annoyance that could affect the spell.
After a good twenty seconds, his arms collapsed, and he fell to his knees. Breathing heavily, he looked around. While fire still burned certain areas, for the most part, everything was clear.
He let out a deep sigh.
Even with his constant training, Gaspard hadn’t been able to do much about his magical ability. Physical strength was one thing, the amount of swinging he did more than enough helped in that department, but magic was an entirely different beast.
He reached into the pouch tied around his hip and pulled out a light blue crystal—
A metallic screech followed by a massive impact to the back of Gaspard’s hand launched the crystal straight out of his grasp and onto the floor a few meters away.
“Argh!” he pulled back his hand and looked at the deep cut into the metal plating. Thankfully whatever had cut him hadn’t gone through the layer of armor, otherwise his hand would’ve been torn clean off.
“Ehh…? That’s no fun…” a creepy voice wormed into Gaspard’s ears.
Without hesitation, he unsheathed his sword and swung towards the voice, but missed.
“Feisty…but it won’t be that easy.”
Raising his head, Gaspard finally saw his assailant. A woman, holding a halberd in her right hand and a crossbow in her left, wearing mismatched armor welded together haphazardly. Messy black hair reached right below her jaw before ending sharply.
Jamming the bottom of the halberd onto the ground, the woman smiled, “You don’t look from ‘round here. Were you just passing by?”
Gaspard gripped his sword with both hands and stumbled to a standing position. The blue crystal laid on the floor between himself and the woman. It was the last one he had on him, so he had to make retrieving it his highest priority.
“I imagine that doesn’t matter to you. Your group isn’t well known for just letting people go,” he said in hopes to distract her from seeing the crystal.
In the state he was in, there was a low chance he would win. The woman’s appearance and the flag he’d seen earlier told him without a shadow of a doubt who he was dealing with. She was part of a group known as the Rings of Eternity.
They were a savage group whose goals were known by only the people in said group. All anyone knew was that they traveled from place-to-place terrorizing small towns and villages. They killed everyone and took their weapons, materials, and anything useful they might find.
As expected, the group was made up of proficient fighters. This woman would be no exception.
“Heh-Heh, not one for casual chit-chat, I see,” she creepily turned her head sideways, “At least I take it you should be strong—coming all the way out here and all that.”
Taking a single step forward, she then bent over, knocking Gaspard’s heart rate into the stratosphere. The woman picked up the blue crystal and brought it up to the pale moonlight.
“A mana crystal. Well, you won’t be needing that,” with a crunch, the crystal burst into tiny shards of glass under her fist. As she opened her hand, a semi-transparent orb was left in its place, breathing a light blue color. With a smile, the woman placed her palm, and the orb, against her chest.
She glowed blue for a second before returning to her grimier look.
“Now…” she laughed, “let’s get this started.”
Raising her crossbow, she shot, not a hint of hesitation in her eyes. The bolt cut through the air, zipping the space between the two in an instant.
The flat of Gaspard’s blade narrowly caught the tip of the bolt, shattering it into fragments. Gaspard’s reaction time was fast, but it took everything he had just to raise his sword. The impact was still strong enough to launch the weapon straight out of his hands.
The woman closed the distance, thrusting her halberd straight toward his chest.
He painfully turned his body sideways. The tip of the halberd scraped against his chest plate, shooting sparks as it passed by. In one fluid movement, she stomped to a stop, craned her body sideways, and swung the halberd mid thrust towards Gaspard’s torso, jabbing the blade on the side of the polearm into his armor.
“Urgh!” he let out as the vibrations reverbed throughout his body. The shock wasn’t pleasant, but luckily enough, the blade hadn’t reached his body, missing it by only a centimeter.
She pulled off the halberd from his armor, ripping it apart in the process.
Another shot rang.
A sharp sting ripped through Gaspard’s shoulder. Blood gushed from the wound, piercing right through, and jabbing itself onto the ground.
“Argh!” Holding his shoulder, he dropped to the ground, curling over in pain.
This pain—it wasn’t normal. Gaspard had once been part of an elven squad that was sent on missions throughout the country. In these missions, he’d been shot, stabbed, and hurt in many ways. But none had hurt as badly as this.
It was like his arm was being melted from the inside out.
Immediately, the woman kicked him in the wound, flipping him around to face her.
“Ever been shot by one of these? Probably not,” she laughed as she shot his other shoulder. The same excruciating pain welled up in that arm too. “It might not seem like it—” The woman twirled her halberd before dropping it directly onto his thigh. “—but this…I don’t derive pleasure from it. If people like you didn’t get in the way, I wouldn’t be forced to do this.”
The fiery sensation crawling through every limb left Gaspard unable to speak. His vision was blurry, and his head was swirling.
“Well…if it’s any consolation,” the woman continued, “You’ll be the last person I’ll ever kill—for a while at least.”
Why the hell would that be consolation?! He wanted to yell, but his throat wouldn’t produce any noise.
She sighed, “I kind of wished this would’ve been more fun. Well, I guess we can’t win them all.” The woman pulled her halberd out of Gaspard’s thigh. With another twirl, she aimed the tip of the blade toward Gaspard’s head.
Another gush of blood sprouted into the air—but it didn’t come from Gaspard.
“AAhh!” The woman yelled, dropping her weapon with a clang.
His heart rate was beating against his ears. With every thump, more blood spilled from his wounds. A faint breath came up to his side, almost as heavy as his own.
Small cold hands pressed against his skin.
A string of words drifted into Gaspard’s ears, but he could only hear the last one as his full consciousness came back to him, “…heal…”
Disappearing into nothingness was, not only his wounds but the overwhelming exhaustion that had once plagued his body. His vision became still again. The moons high above became clearer than he’d seen them all night.
He turned his gaze to the heavy breathing to his right. There, he found a young girl with dark skin, pointy ears, and short purple hair. Her eyes were emerald-green, wide, and with tears filling her eyes.
“…I-It worked…” she smiled.
Before he could even thank her, another voice ripped his attention away.
Standing before him, in between himself and the woman, was another figure. It was small, had short hair, and there were bandages wrapped around their head, a pair of horns sticking out from the top. Sharp nails extended out of the tips of their fingers, dripping with a red liquid.
“…You…filthy creature…” The woman screeched.
Gaspard jumped to his feet, bringing himself next to the small figure. He picked up his sword that was nearby and pointed it at the woman.
He glanced once at the girl. His eyes widened the moment he realized her eyes were bandaged, but he quickly turned back to the woman.
“…A Terranyx…didn’t expect to see one of those things here…” the woman held the right side of her face. Blood spilled from between her fingers. “The fact that not only one elf, but two would even stand near one of those…things.”
“She’s not a ‘thing’!” A voice yelled from behind Gaspard. The young girl that had healed him ran to the other side of the horned girl, holding the halberd that the wounded woman had been using. The elf girl’s hands shook, and her teeth were gritted.
The woman snickered. “Who do you think you are talking to like—”
“Are you sure you’re in any position to make threats,” Gaspard cut her off, “The way I see it, you’re quite outnumbered…and I’m almost full strength too.” He grinned.
Furrowing her brows, the woman looked at the three of them. After a few seconds, she smiled. “Very well then. I agree with your assessment.” She shrugged, “Are you sure that killing me now wouldn’t be for the best?”
Gaspard nodded, “Probably, but I wouldn’t want to put these kids in danger if I don’t have to.”
The small elf girl turned her gaze at him, a hint of surprise lying in it.
“I see,” The woman took a step back. “You’re really trying to play the hero, huh? Let’s see how far you can take that.” With that, she turned and began walking away from the trio. The woman’s hand that’d been covering her face lowered. “By the way, I’m Krista Ridson. Remember that name, for I won’t ever forget your face.” She turned her head, exposing the large gashes running across the right side of her face.
“Are you okay, Lia?”
“Are you sure? You better not be hiding anything.”
“I swear, if you get sick after this, I won’t be healing you!”
Gaspard looked at the girl’s conversation as he sheathed his sword. The elf girl seemed like the older sister of the two, inspecting the horned girl, whose name was apparently Lia, for any wounds.
Her emerald eyes then turned to him, turning her worried frown to a gentler expression. “Thanks…for clearing out the fire. We probably would’ve died without you.”
“Oh, no problem. I’m glad I could help.”
The elf girl bowed, “I’m Eleanor Reine.” She put a hand on the horned girl. “And this is Za’Lia.”
The family name “Reine” sounded oddly familiar, but Gaspard couldn’t pin down why. As for the other girl, the name alone told him everything he needed to know about what a Terranyx was doing in these parts of the country.
“Gaspard. No family name. Nice to meet you.”
Eleanor’s eyes widened for a second, but she quickly nodded.
Not having a family name was an oddity for an elf. It was no wonder she’d be surprised about it. In reality, Gaspard technically did have a name, but he didn’t associate with it any longer.
Both Eleanor and Gaspard turned to Za’Lia. She held her stomach as it rumbled on cue.
“Um, you wouldn’t happen to have any food on you?” Eleanor awkwardly smiled.
They weren’t that far from the place he was staying at. It wouldn’t be that hard to go get something before they planned out what to do.
“…if you don’t mind going back to my place, I could cook something up.”
Eleanor furrowed her brows. She probably wasn’t too keen on going to some random person’s house.
Thinking it over for a few seconds, she finally nodded, “Fine, but you better not try anything.” She tapped the dagger sheathed on her hip.
Gaspard laughed, “I swear I won’t.” She probably wouldn’t be much of a threat to him, but he decided not to mention that.
She grabbed Za’Lia’s hand and pulled her close. “Okay then. Let’s go.”
With a simple exchange of words, the lives of the trio would be forever changed. How they would be changed, that was something none of them would’ve known at the time. Especially not the fact that they’d be living together for years to come…
Please log in to leave a comment.