War, aggression, and deceit.
All of these are found to be unnecessary at the end of the day. Yet through it all some find the reason to bring them to light, to enact events that cost millions their very lives.
One simple whisper of a threat was all it took to get to such a state. Children forced out into the unruly world to die for a higher purpose they had no knowledge of. Abandoned in that very moment they wondered, why?
To find out where we are we have to find out how we got there.
More than five hundred years ago, the earth's leading nations were pushed to the brink of survival. Contamination of fresh water, international blighted food shortage, complete depletion of fossil fuels, and a worsening climate drove all nations into a frenzy. Power struggles resulted from the closing of common trade in order to adhere to the needs of their own citizens. But even so, that wasn’t enough to supply the masses with the proper needs of survival. With this choice; many suffered and found themselves lost for life. Hopeless.
In the year 2111 society as we knew it collapsed, countries dragged out to make the difficult decision to partake in nuclear research to gain a foothold on the last few resources that remained. All development invested in a newfound nuclear energy that could empower their efforts and means of devastation. Mere chances of survival became ones worth fighting for.
Bombs rained down for weeks on end in the early spring, countless cities uprooted and demolished by the first conflict's end. The unprotected structures of man were reduced to mere rubble. As people died and nations fell, many rushed to gain world domination but only one made the jump successfully: Russia.
They stomped their way forward and out into the limelight of the world’s impending annihilation with an iron boot. A single man named Dr. Adrik Zima was able to take the necessary steps and press his sole deep into the muddled earth. His footprint left a lasting imprint in the creation of a new bomb far more catastrophic than any before it. It was something national leaders referred to as a country killer. Many saw it as the start of the end times.
The Kraven bomb.
Packed with the power of 1,000,000 megatons of radioactive destruction, the soon leaked design was spread across the globe. Most nations did what they could to replicate the monstrous weapon, while some forfeited their designation of integrity over to Russia. Knots tied and strands cut loose, the second wave was on the rise. Within the mere six months that had passed since the leak, smaller countries found themselves absorbed by those with far more capability for the forsaken day coming. The earth’s people reduced to loyal dedications given to one of eleven mega countries fighting for control.
For the right to live.
Yet the day of infamy arrived, one vaguely remembered as a fleeting fairy tale by the human-like species of the new modern age. An infamous tragedy. Complete extermination.
The day the sky rained fire.
No country was left standing. As the dust settled, the world's population had dropped to a near 0.01% left to find a means of survival in a now decimated world. All modern advances of society were washed away in fire, electronics inoperative in aftermath, radiation plaguing the world in its entirety. Change was the first thing to take place as the environments we had grown used to in the past adapted to the end times. Our understanding of them diminished with the years that passed after the invoked radioactive world wide winter. A new ice age.
While many died out shortly after the onslaught of the ashen mushroom clouds that covered every square inch of the earth, those that lived strived to make it out to the other side of this insufferable hell. Animals, plants, and people alike that made it into the new era found themselves different by the time the skies cleared. The Sun’s intensified rays from a weakened stratosphere their greeting to the acceptance of what they had evolved into.
Their bodies went through drastic adaptations over the years to find their place in this new scorched world. Environments pushed to their limits as they refined themselves intensely to keep up with the radiation levels in the sky that left gaping holes in the ozone. New terrifying storms the resulting factor that scourged the earth for centuries until the dust settled.
Our world as we know it was gone. Reshaped.
Man was no longer at the top of the food chain. Kicked off the pedestal by their own creation, they toppled down to a mere rival in a larger den of beasts. One of many fighting for the right to call earth home.
Hundreds of years passed.
The planet’s continents had changed shape themselves, tectonic plates entirely shifted by the earth shattering bombs that surmounted into global shudders. A reborn Pangea present once again.
In this recessed world, isolated humans evolved into divided environmental factions, specifically six major known groups: Soliuns, Udinians, Wendigins, Ikappons, Entsons, and the Paladinians. Each developed from the baseline foundation of humans that were at a perfect distance from impact sites to develop radiated genes fit for the habitat they settled within. Where it was hunkered down in the caves beneath the surface, or elevated in the mountaintops that reached above the clouds, man found refuge from the earth’s reset.
Helmed as one of the stronger environmental factions, the Paladinians made their land claims known over the years. Cave dwellers that stepped out into the sunlight following a solar flare surge, they found themselves populated across the ashen gravel sandy seas of the new world.
Raised in the elevated cliffside grasslands, the Paladinian's migrated and lived on the tops of stone pillared rock mounds to thrive. Adapted with heightened senses and brute strength, most remained capable of taking on the invasive world around them. Something the past fell short of.
As man progressed the advancements of nature couldn’t be ignored. Strange hybrid beasts and forsaken humanoid creatures populated the wildlands, living out in the radioactive storms that swept over our regressed world. Just one of many other challenges man confronted in their venture to reclaim control over the earth. To establish themselves as predators over the mere superior prey of this forsaken world.
Humans always find a way, a will to push on.
Exotic cultures and beliefs became the prime motivator toward the Paladinian growth as clansmen, many clans divided within the greater populous of the species. The single uplifted following dedicated their praises to the highest holy known to the dwelling of man that crawled out from the earth: the Sun.
Praised as a holier being capable of bestowing power, the Paladinian people came together and elevated themselves into a hierarchy of strength equivalent to that of early feudal Japan.
Crowned above all sovereign blessed citizens but below the Sun herself, or Amaterasu as they called her, the High Priest was delegated as the physical embodiment of authority. The one who dictated all for the betterment of the clan, the Sunretsu clan, a central native leader above those in bordering realms. Below him a declining hierarchy of diocesans, chieftains, and warriors that instilled the High Priest’s jurisdiction over the Paladinian lands.
Through time and acceptance of these foundational beliefs, customs became integral to the system of the Sunretsu clan. One’s use and future were decided solely by the blessing of Ameretsu blessed upon them at birth. Priestess’ the ones able to mitigate such a decision.
Women, adopted or born, of the Chieftain dedicated their time to the arrival and development of the children born into the crude world around them. Their lives a centerpiece of hope.
In the eleventh year, as the Sun changed polarization and shifted from a dark dreary red to bright vibrant yellow, a new generation of cloaked Palads was born into the village. This collective esteemed by the Sun’s direct acknowledgment of their birth signified by the magnificent colorful change. All upper levels of the Paladinian hierarchy honed in on the promised children born. Brimmed with anticipation for the next savior to be born, a child of pure light.
As known, all children were brought into the world for one purpose: to serve. Whether as warriors for the High Priest, diocesans to manage the lands, farmers to raise for the holy fertile grounds, smiths to design tools and weapons of control, or any other promised sector job they were designated with it from the day they were born. No choice in the matter as it was the Sun’s to make.
Very few earned the liberty of fighting the dangerous creatures that lurked around their homeland deep down within the dark caves and snaking around within the tall grass at the base valleys of their high mounds. Alongside this, the honor of warding off other nations from their elevated lands, the clan itself their glorified body; their temple. Squads formed to strengthen borders and diffuse any conflict. To be in such a squad was a child's highest dream.
Here in the domain of the Sunretsu clan the story truly begins.
New life incites a new journey.
Eleven years before such a night could be remembered.
Through the newborn perspective of Daisuke the world opens itself up to be foretold. A promised child that reached for the heavens as his eyes split open. Skin so supple and plush, his broad stare laid upon the enclosed wooden room around him. His first conscious reaction was something no child could escape: irritation. Radiation, a presiding shifter in the balance of strength, was inescapable in this vile world.
Children the first to suffer its rough grasp.
The cries of newborn babies could be heard throughout the Nippon village. A sound that brought on rejoice within townspeople, the entrance of life into this brutal lapsed land a sacred sound. Their tender skin, still not hardened enough to fend off the cyclonic air, immediately burnt as the toxic air grazed them. A harsh welcome.
Each child glowed a subtle radiant green hue through their pale skin, some a pinch brighter than others. Every baby struggled to adjust the levels of radiation within their little bodies, forced to adapt the instant they took their first breath.
A door to the matted room slid open with haste. Four maidens followed behind Nippon’s head priestess into the blessed nursery chamber, a massive open space within the town's central shrine where all newborns were cared for until they became able to walk. Closed off from the scorching red-hot Sun, the gray dead wooden walls lined with thick compact tar from the pits ventilated out the vile air.
The maidens, wrapped in pure white hand woven robes, stood off to the side beneath the wooden beamed crimson ceilings to await orders. Their next move was mitigated by the priestess’ very word of instruction. Purpose something that had to be bestowed upon them.
Surveying the children, the priestess glided over the floor in her traditional blood stained crimson robes and picked up a noisy disgruntled baby. Its teeny fists clenched within its swaddled cloth. Fresh tears that trickled down the sides of its face were whipped away by the tender nature of the priestess. All fears and agony rocked away in her affectionate arms.
“It’s okay, sh-sh-sh-sh calm down little one.” The priestess murmured kindly.
Baby nulled by her spoken comfort, the priestess motioned forward the maidens with a single head tilt. An analysis taken of the situation that surrounded her, years of practice at play.
“Ena, please take this bud to the lower level. She has a little bit of a rash on her foot. Chika and Azumi. Help those two in the right corner, I think they're hungry.”
“Yes, priestess Umi.” The three maidens instantly responded in unison.
The shrine maidens ran about the thatch matted child sanctuary at the command of the priestess. Each child was swaddled in a Palad woven robe, a marker of their place in the clan. Such a simple woven fabric a decoration they would bear until they graduated into their practice in the eleventh year, for these children an exact match of when the Sun's poles would shift. Their graduation was a holiday for all townspeople more specifically for promised warriors.
“There seem to be more covenanted kindred this festival. So many promising little ones.” Umi mentioned with glee.
Every little face only added to her sequestered smile hidden beneath a vibrant scarlet veil. Her soft toned golden-yellow eyes full of delight. Days like this were her favorite, a gift.
“Oh my, look at you! Such a happy little one, aren’t you?” Umi said as she knelt down toward the tenacious rolling boy.
Hands in the air and laughter on his lips, Daisuke smiled back at the priestess. His swaddled cloth had been unraveled in his excitement. Umi stuck out her finger toward him, a wiggle given to entice the child. Without hesitation, Daisuke eagerly clutched onto it with his teeny hands. His eyes broadened at the close up view of the priestess, full of wonder as he gazed upon young Umi.
Her long flowing golden tipped snow white hair poked out beneath the gold trimmed veil. Other various golden adornments were interwoven onto her traditional blood stained robe, each glistening in the child's eyes. Joy flooded Umi’s face as Daisuke giggled and tightened his grip on her finger. Cheeks rosy red creased, her pearly sharp teeth flashed for a brief moment. A gracious smile.
“It’s rare to see them this happy. Isn’t it?”
“Dah-hmmur-roo.” Daisuke muttered as he flailed his hands up in the air.
“Mieko, come over here for a moment. Who is this one?”
Mieko strolled across the room with a fussy child in her arms. Bouncing the baby back to sleep she placed it down and took a gander at the child at the end of Umi’s finger.
“That’s Daisuke, your Highness Umi. Son of Botan and Cho I believe.”
“Hmmm. Mark him down, he seems—promising. I pray Botan raises him well.” Umi uttered as she rose back up onto her feet.
“I do as well, priestess Umi.”
With a few strokes of a blood soaked quill on an unraveled tapestry, Mieko scribbled down Daisuke’s name. Umi continued to saunter around the room, heart warmed a degree higher with every child she came across. Yet amongst them all only a few more were blessed enough to be marked down by Mieko under Umi’s recommendation. Children that would be scouted early for their potential. Their sheer resistance to the laced air and abundant glow a sign enough of their future usefulness to the Nippon clan.
Gaze tossed around the room, Umi passed quick judgments as they came closer to the end of that season’s batch of children. Lives determined in a matter of minutes.
“She seems to be missing a hand, poor little one. Mieko, tag her name for a care-giver, all she’ll be good for.”
“Yes, priestess Umi.”
Twenty eight babies were judged, six of them labeled to be watched over for the promise they showed. Reaching the final row, Umi halted halfway through. An odd silence drew her attention as she stopped upon a peaceful baby boy. Eyes narrowed and hands clung to his chest, he turned his head as she leaned in closer.
The golden shimmers from her jewelry sent a prick of pain to his eyes. Irritation endured as he squinted at Umi, careless of her presence. Fear driven curiosity egged on his attentive stare, skin riddled with crude rashes but not a tear was shed.
“Mieko. Who is this silent bud?”
“That’s—that is Kiyo. Son of Ronin.” Mieko stuttered and leaned in closer toward Umi.
“His mother passed away shortly after his birth, he barely even made it.”
“Oh . . . I see.”
Umi reached out and brushed her hand against Kiyo’s sunken right cheek, malnourished from his refusal to eat any foreign milk. A scowl warped his face as he winced at Umi’s subtle touch, but he refused to cry. He was a stubborn ill-tempered child from birth. Breaths congested, he panted heavily, lungs struggling to accept the infectious air.
“Sh-sh-sh. You poor little thing, broken and helpless.”
Umi rose up from the child, hands tucked away beneath her robe unable to rub away his ragged touch. Thoughts cycled through her mind yet an optimistic smirk surfaced from her lips, eyes full of certainty. An understanding Mieko lacked.
“I hope you live up to the expectations of your father, quiet one. He has done so much for us in such little time.”
Mieko stood aside awaiting Umi's sentence for Kiyo, yet Mieko’s personal judgment was already laid upon the boy. He was nothing more than a mere laborer in her eyes. His feeble body one to be used as a podium for others to grow off of. A commoner to work in the fields for the clan's future, to feed the prospering children after.
Anyone else would’ve seen the same.
“Mieko. Mark him down.”
“Yes—wait, are you sure, priestess Umi?”
Silence settled between them as Umi remained locked in on Kiyo, Mieko left to anticipate her response. Body riddled with a nervous shudder, speaking out of line to a priestess a punishable offense, but Umi chuckled it off. Her sheathed warmed emotions clear enough to see beneath her scarlet veil.
“Mieko. Do you know why we assign children at such a young age?”
“Yes, priestess. Only you and the other chieftains' daughters are able to distinguish what place suits them.”
“Right, right. But you're missing something. This sanctuary, these red sun buds.” Umi said giddily as she gestured to all the children.
“Really? What would that be, priestess?”
Umi grinned at Mieko’s curiosity, the young maiden eager to know more and move up in the ranks. Put on edge as she teetered closer to Umi, Mieko’s right foot bounced against the floor. Hanging on the hope to be freed from the cycle as a laborer, a sublevel of the clan’s hierarchy.
“No one knows what they’ll truly become, but we give them something to search for. A purpose.”
Mieko nodded at Umi’s depiction, eyes glancing at the meek squeamish Kiyo as he scowled at the world that took him in. Umi, following her gaze, looked toward the boy, overly optimistic for his future.
“Why not make the weakest aim the highest? Mark him down.”
“Yes, priestess Umi.”
Kiyo, the feeblest child, found his place amongst the projected strongest children of the same generation. Daisuke a future peer of his in the rivalry to become warriors, to rise through the ranks and reach their limitations beneath the Sun. Through hollow tears he embraced against the clan that accepted him, basking in the gentle light of hand carved glow stones in the four corners of the elegantly boarded room. His scope of the world soon to be opened to the reality outside, view broadened to the greater plains that surrounded him.
In the Nezumiiro grassland valleys of the Panagon, the new world's sole continent, the Nippon clan rested its entire future on these children. Their lives the key to fulfilling the prophecies delivered by the Sun herself. Born in the Sun’s year of transfer, a period of utmost religious importance, their lives were a promise of that hopeful change. These crimson children destined to find out so in their eleventh year of life.
The journey there one to see who would become capable of dawning the title of a Sun Kissed Warrior. To see who was truly capable of protecting the clan.