A Longing Dream I'd Even Burn The World For
Nothing else came to mind when she thought back to then. Under the rubble. At the brink of death.
Smoke leaked through the small, insignificant gaps in between the wood and rock. It entered her lungs, suffocating not only her but Za’Lia too—the person she couldn’t allow to die. A fire she could not see raged outside, threatening to consume not only her but Za’Lia too—the person she couldn’t allow to die. Desperation filled her chest, not to save herself, but to safe Za’Lia—the one person she could not allow to die…
Little mana was left in Eleanor’s body. If she was smart with it, clearing a way for Za’Lia to escape shouldn’t be impossible if she waited for the fire to burn a hole through the rubble. In that situation, Eleanor more likely than not would die, but at least Za’Lia would be safe.
This can’t end like this… she’d prayed in her mind. The prayers weren’t for anyone in particular. Deep inside she knew that nothing would come from praying. No higher power had ever helped before. No higher power would help her now.
So, even after the crackling of the fire suddenly stopped, she didn’t thank the Goddess for it. When a breath of fresh air finally reached her lungs, she didn’t thank the Goddess for it. The tears running down her face weren’t of happiness that the Goddess had listened.
None of it was thanks to her.
“You are Goddess Arra’s Angels!” A woman exclaimed, holding both of Eleanor’s hands. The woman’s face was bloody, but there was a relieved smile across it. The blood in her hands stained Eleanor’s red, but she didn’t react in the slightest.
“Please go to safety, we got it from here,” she said to the woman with a smile and a light bow. Her actions might’ve betrayed her true feelings, but she knew this wasn’t the time or place to let her emotions overpower her.
Letting go of the woman, she made her way down the tattered street.
Arra, the entity the woman had mentioned, was none other than the Goddess most of the populace believed in. In fact, it was taken as a fact she existed, somewhere on the planet aptly named after her. To Eleanor however, Arra was no Goddess. It wasn’t a thought she’d vocalize, but her feelings over the matter were set in stone.
There was no better proof her feelings held merit than the scene unfolding before her. This small town was being assaulted by a group of bandits. From the little she was able to pick up while helping people in the town, there were murmurs that the bandits were the feared Rings of Eternity.
Eleanor was quite familiar with that group. They were the exact people that raided the town that night. Like before, they were once again attempting to exterminate an entire town.
How could a supposed Goddess let that happen?
Running down the smooth stone streets, she passed by a few knights who nodded at her, giving her a silent thanks. The further she got from the center of the town, the more the wooden buildings became evident with battle damage. Even the streets themselves were stained red with blood.
Upon reaching the main gate, she looked off into the horizon.
It was still evening, the sun high in the sky, but just moments away from dimming for the day. Against the backdrop of the trees and blue sky, it was almost a beautiful sight, if it wasn’t for the group of raging savages rushing towards the town.
Sprinting down the grassy plains, she finally caught up with her two partners.
“How’s it going?” she asked as she unsheathed her dagger.
Striking down one of the bandits was a man with brown skin, long pointy ears, grass-green hair, and eyes sharper than the blade he smoothly swung. This man was Gaspard, the man who served as Eleanor’s guardian.
“Nicely, I’d say,” he smiled. “The guards are taking on the ones that broke away and the main force here is almost gone.” Effortlessly, he blocked the strike of another bandit before slicing at his chest.
Standing by his side, wearing a blue outfit and bandages around their eyes was Eleanor’s best friend, Za’Lia. Her white hair was covered with both blood and dirt, the same as her sharp silver nails.
“Mh-Hm,” the girl nodded, agreeing to Gaspard’s assessment.
A tinge of worry filled Eleanor’s chest. She’d been adamantly against Za’Lia participating in battles, but it had become impossible to stop her from doing so. Gaspard thought it wasn’t too bad of an idea either, so Eleanor was outnumbered every way she saw it.
She wasn’t happy about it, but she simply gritted her teeth before continuing. “Sorry for taking so long. Everyone has been taken to the bunker.”
“Thanks for that,” Gaspard smiled. “At least now we can go all out, right?”
Za’Lia nodded, “Right.”
Eleanor sighed, “Yeah…let’s do that.” She turned to the group of people running their way. It was evident by their armor that they weren’t civilians. Their swords aloft, they charged with a roar.
The words the woman spoke earlier reverberated in her mind, Goddess Arra’s Angels.
It was true the three of them had made it their livelihood to protect this town, and although she understood why some might see them that way, she wouldn’t call herself an angel. Especially not one belonging to Arra.
The last thing she wanted was to be associated with Arra in any way…
Eleanor blocked a swing with her dagger, her arms vibrated violently. Gaspard quickly came in and struck down her assailant before launching himself toward another target.
Blood splattered against her face. Although at some point, the deaths of even people like them left her feeling guilty, it’d been a long time since she’d last felt that way. These people were evil. There was no point feeling bad over their deaths, she concluded.
“Raa!!” A man coming from Eleanor’s flank suddenly swung at her, forcing her to dodge. After ducking, she launched herself off the ground towards the man’s body. She placed her free hand against his chest and—
“—erupt,” she murmured.
The steel on the man’s armor melted in an instant. A whirlwind of fire shot right through him. Eleanor pushed his limp body off to the side before rushing the woman behind him.
Unlike someone like Gaspard or Za’Lia, Eleanor wasn’t as physically strong. Her main strength lied in magic, something thought to her by her family from a young age—well, younger age. She was seen as gifted, a curse that dragged her life down for as long as she could remember. Now that curse hadn’t changed, but the reason for it had.
After sheathing her dagger and clapping her hands, she pulled them away, revealing a ball of flame. It was unnecessary to use both hands, her magic was strong enough with a single one, but her mind was clouded over with her thoughts.
Invoke fundamental forces, she said in her mind.
“—Erupt!” she yelled.
A flash of light.
Massive red flames engulfed her palms before launching at the woman and enveloping her in fire. The blast continued past her to the few behind her. The air burned with the heat of her flames, even the top layer of the floor turned to ash.
Magic was her strength. Magic was a fundamental part of this world. But…magic came directly from Arra herself.
The incantation for magic required a supposed “blessing” from Arra. Thankfully for Eleanor, a skilled magic user could condense the incantation till there was no incantation left. Although she wasn’t skillful enough for that, she was able to at least get to a point where she’d cut out the reference to Arra.
For now, that would have to be enough.
“Haa…” she panted as the heat from the flames subsided, but the one in her chest simply grew.
As the battle came to a close, the trio made their way back to the town. Once they gave the all-clear, the Town Master came out of the bunker to greet them.
“Thank you all once again,” the old man bowed, nearly audibly creaking as he did. His staggered movements spoke to his age, the wrinkles on his face and hands only further supporting that fact. “I don’t know what we’d do without you. We’ll be sure to repay you!”
Gaspard shook his head, “No, no, it’s the least we can do. Your hospitality is more than enough,” he smiled.
The Town Master’s eyes drifted over to Za’Lia for a moment, a crease forming in his brow. Eleanor quickly took a step in front of her best friend, blocking his glare entirely.
Gaspard, probably noticing it too, cleared his throat, “Of course, we wouldn’t mind a free meal every so often,” he laughed.
“Oh, is that so,” the old man clapped, a smile returning to his face. “How about we have you two—erm, three, come over to Rockman Inn for some dinner? Everything on the house!”
Eleanor used every bit of her willpower to stop herself from yelling at the old man. It hadn’t flown passed her that he’d excluded Za’Lia the first time around. At the same time, Eleanor turned her eyes to Za’Lia.
“That’d be nice—” Gaspard started but was quickly interrupted by a small hand grabbing onto his. With a tug, Za’Lia pulled on Gaspard’s hand. It was light enough to where the Town Master couldn’t have seen it. With a smile, Gaspard continued, “—but we have some prior arrangements. And we really wouldn’t want to cause more trouble to all of you today.”
“I see,” the Town Master said, “Then we’ll extend the offer to some other day. Just keep in mind that your next meal at the Rockman Inn will be on the house,” he outstretched his hand.
Gaspard took it as he said, “Will do!” He forced a smile as he did.
With the battle won and the Town Master informed, the trio walked back through the broken streets and exited the small town.
Passing the gate, they let out a synchronized sigh of relief.
“There’s something about being suddenly thrust into a fight that really doesn’t feel good, huh,” Gaspard complained as he rolled his shoulders. His armor and green hair were stained red with blood. Noticing some of the red in his bangs, he pulled a piece of it down and, unsuccessfully, tried cleaning it off with his hand.
“It’s not like it’s that big of an issue for you. You’re always wearing that armor,” Eleanor snickered.
Unlike Gaspard, she didn’t like wearing heavy clothes all the time. The outfit she usually wore consisted of a brown dress and a white blouse. It was light, warm, and comfy. Unfortunately, with how sudden the call to action was, she had to wear that same outfit into the fight today, only layering some pieces of armor on top of that.
She looked down at herself and saw that not only her armor was covered in blood, but so was the dress she loved to wear.
“This is going to be a pain…” she mumbled, light pulling at her filthy clothes.
“Hey…while you’re at it…” Gaspard put a hand on her shoulder, “You wouldn't mind—”
“Clean your own damn clothes!” Eleanor cut him off.
Blood wasn’t terribly hard to clean from armor. But fabric? That was another story. It would take a long time to clean both hers and Za’Lia’s outfits, she wasn’t going to spend more time cleaning Gaspard’s too.
Speaking of which.
She turned to Za’Lia who was as silent as always. Her blue outfit exposed a lot more skin than Eleanor would’ve liked it to, but Za’Lia claimed it allowed her to move better, so there wasn’t much room for debate. Although the outfit didn’t concern Eleanor as much anymore, the fact that Za’Lia never wore armor definitely was a huge concern.
Either way, her outfit, like the other two, was covered in blood.
“I wonder why the Rings of Eternity were this far north,” Gaspard noted, snapping Eleanor out of her thoughts.
“It’s not that weird. In fact, it does line up with what happened,” she hesitated for a moment. “With what happened three years ago.”
Gaspard’s eyes went wide, “R-Right…Sorry for bringing that up,” he apologized.
“Come on, we don’t mind it. Did you forget that we fight people like them all the time?” Eleanor asked. Although she said that confidently, it wasn’t entirely a true statement.
“Hm…well either way,” He cleared his throat, “I hope this is a one-time occurrence. The last thing I want to do is deal with that group of weirdoes again.”
Eleanor huffed, “I don’t think we have a choice.”
At this point, they’d dealt with many different types of people. For as strong those in the Rings of Eternity were, their lackeys still didn’t match them three in strength. They could probably win every time in a one-on-one.
At least that’s what she liked to believe.
“Hmm,” Za’Lia mumbled, “Tired.” With a single word, she raised her arms towards Gaspard. And, like the doting father that he was, he scooped her off her feet and carried her on his back. Za’Lia dropped her head on his back, being careful not to hit him with her horns, and sat there like some little kid.
“She can walk by herself, you know?” Eleanor asked with crossed arms.
“But she’s tired.”
“We’re almost home, you know? You don’t have to baby her, you know?”
“You’re the last person I want to hear that from—you know?” he mockingly added.
With an elbow to the ribs, Gaspard yelped but continued carrying Za’Lia on his back.
Finally, reaching the log house by the sea, they entered the building. The stress was sapped from their bodies the moment the woodsy scent entered their nostrils.
The cabin was cozy but roomy. Immediately after entering the house was the living room, three chairs sat in front of the empty chimney, a large carpet giving the otherwise brown floor a red color. At the far back of the house was the kitchen with a dining table nearby.
When they’d first arrived there, the place had looked much blander and everything was targeted for a single person. The cabin had once belonged to a friend of Gaspard who apparently let him borrow the place while he was staying in that part of the country. Eleanor didn’t know much about who they were, but she hadn’t heard Gaspard talk about them ever since he explained that to them.
Gaspard lowered Za’Lia before stretching. “Go change your clothes. I’ll get dinner ready.”
“You change your clothes too!” Eleanor quickly fired back. “And take a bath, there’s no way you’re going to cook with blood all over you!”
“My uncle used to say that the blood gave the food a nice extra flavor—”
“No, that’s gross!”
He pursed his lips and looked up pensively, “Yeah, he was kind of known for that.”
Then why are you following after him, she wanted to ask but decided she should change her clothes quickly before the blood fully dried (Although she had a feeling that’d happened a while ago).
“Let’s go,” she grabbed Za’Lia and took her to the room at the far end to the left.
Closing the door behind her, Eleanor made sure the room was pitch black. The lack of windows helped, but she also checked the walls, door, and door frame for any light that could possibly leak through. After making sure there wasn’t a hint of light, she turned to Za’Lia.
“Okay, you can take the bandages off.”
On command, Za’Lia undid the white cloth wrapped a few times around her eyes. As soon as the last piece was removed, she opened her eyes, revealing their beautiful golden color.
Eleanor found it ironic that those eyes that bore a striking resemblance to the sun could never be seen during the day. That is unless Za’Lia risked losing her vision forever.
What cruel Goddess would let that be the case? She wondered.
“Let’s get you clean,” Eleanor said as she began to undress her.
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