The sound of rattling chains, as if pulled swiftly across the ground, echoes in my head.
That noise is followed up by a series of more sounds resembling steel objects hitting each other continuously until I hear what one could describe as a brick wall crumbling. My eyes may be closed with my consciousness barely present, but I know these sounds all too well—the sound of an ongoing battle.
A girl’s voice resonates through an open area accompanied by heavy rainfall. This voice sounds...familiar.
"Yuuna, wake up! Please!"
My sense of touch is slowly returning to me; I can feel someone holding me. Her hands feel soft, and her voice bears desperation. I slowly open my eyes; I’m displayed a blurry view, yet the person before me is still recognizable. The dark color of a Purple Pansy covers her short hair, and her forehead is drenched in blood that slowly flows down her face, crossing her eyes along the way.
"Le. . .na..."
That’s all that manages to escape my lips as I'm deprived of strength. A single faintly pronounced word, the name of someone really close to me. But that single word triggered a sudden wave of joy within that person.
"Thank god! You are alive!"
She starts crying while tightly embracing me with her thin and trembling body. I use the last of my strength to lift one of my arms up and gently place my bloody palm on the back of her head to comfort her.
I feel warmth, but not just from her. As I slowly move my eyes around, I'm presented with a bright burning view. We are surrounded by buildings engulfed in flames, indicating we are in the middle of a battlefield. But that’s all I manage to process before my strength leaves me entirely and my sight is sent back into the darkness.
Life is an odd thing. A powerful word, a word with a different meaning for each person. For some, it may present joy, yet for others, fear, but even life can be ended with just a snap of a finger. That’s what makes it so precious to us.
People say the weak die and the strong survive, but the terms weak and strong don't describe a person physically only. It’s something most of those people fail to realize and in a world like this, such a mistake can ultimately mean the end of one’s life.
This is a story of the weak, a story of the strong, but most importantly a story of one’s life. My name is Yuuna Argento, and this is my story.
[March 28th, 1852]
I’m woken up from my slumber by a voice calling out my name.
“Huh…Where am I?”
A sudden beam of light strikes through the branches of a tree above me; it’s a direct hit to my sight as if I was not confused enough already, but it also is an efficient way to wake up. I rub my still tired eyes and look up at the sky.
It is a beautiful day with a sky clear as the blue oceans and a gentle spring breeze. I often like to gaze upon it every morning as I lay beneath this freshly bloomed cherry blossom tree. It’s giving me a nice cool shade, but that’s just a bonus.
I sit up, then begin to stretch my arms while yawning.
"Finally, I knew that I would find you napping out here."
The voice enters my right ear and almost leaves through the left. I use the sound to navigate to the source with my sight and shortly spot a girl crouching near me. The two golden eyes of her look vicious with the combination of disappointed faces she’s putting on for display.
"Oh. . .hey..."
I say sluggishly .
“Don’t ‘Oh…hey..’ me! I was trying to wake you up for several minutes! I swear, did you not sleep? You look like you are about to fall apart!”
If I recall correctly, I was making a sketch for a new version of my combat suit that I wanted to submit. It took me all night to finish.
The crouching girl that dared to interrupt my peaceful rest is my older sister, Lena. Hair so short it stops at the top of her neck, dyed in dark violet. But despite those dark colours, her eyes shine with a bar of bright gold, just like a ray of light piercing through the darkness. She is always dependable and kind, but her words have the power to inflict mental scars. Currently, at the age of sixteen and at the height of a hundred and sixty-four centimetres.
She’s about to go on a rant when another girl’s voice starts echoing in the near distance. Together, we respond to that voice and redirect our gaze. A girl is running towards us while waving.
"You are late."
Lena and I pronounced in unison.
"Sorry, I could not find my comfy pillow."
She was out of breath. The girl connects her hands for a praying sign before Lena, while closing one of her eyes and slightly sticking out her tongue. She then looks at me, her expression goes from playful to a disappointed sort of expression.
“Hey, Yuuna, you were sleeping yourself until now, weren’t you?”
“What gave you that idea?”
I answer as I rub one of my eyes.
“You are drooling all over the place.”
Oh snap! I didn't even notice! More importantly, she really does have a small fluffy pillow strapped to her back!
This is my second older sister, Charlotte, fifteen years old. Possessing black hair hanging down to her hips, accompanied by two crimson eyes as red as blooming roses - It goes well with her tanned skin. A big rack too, and not just that, she's squishy in all the right places. She is known by the people around her for her beauty and laziness, which often brings her to sleep, hence the ‘Sleeping Beauty’. She’s currently the tallest, reaching at about a hundred and seventy centimetres.
She oversleeps so often that we usually do not bother waiting for her, but since the academy is starting again, Lena has put in extra effort to get her ready in time. And yet, she still somehow managed to make us wait.
For just a few seconds, Lena looks at her with a serious expression, and then lets out a sigh.
"Whatever, let's just go. We do not want to be late on the very first day, do we now?"
She says as she gets a hold of my hand and pulls me up to my feet.
To reach our academy, we need to cross half of our huge district. We live on the outskirts of it, and our destination is in the center.
This is the town of Kitsuki, the Hogo-sha district, to be exact. A special district where people called "gifted" live - the town’s guardians if you may. Every single person living here possesses some sort of special power meant for the protection of the people without any abilities. Your role in life is pretty much decided once you are born into a family living in one of these districts.
When passing through the streets, many children can be seen training with their parents or masters, but they have no other option. If a child refuses to take on the role of a guardian, it is seen as a disrespectful act toward every warrior that has died for the people, and the adults are very prideful here, not to mention harsh. So that won’t slide.
The children against fighting for their people are sent to an orphanage outside of the district or, in the worst-case scenario, left homeless. It might seem cruel, but I guess it’s the price we must pay for our powers.
So, what are the powers we possess? Where did they come from? As far as I know, the origins of ‘gifted’ have something to do with some kind of a special rock. I believe it was called the stone of beginnings. But that discovery came with a heavy price, and the gates to hell were opened, signaling the beginning of an end. Quite ironic if you ask me.
As for the powers, they vary from person to person, one could be moving objects simply through mental effort, while another could control flames or any form of heat. The power usually surfaces between the age of six and ten, but if that does not happen, the child is considered defective and is sent out of the district. There have been cases of the powers surfacing past age ten, but it's quite a rarity.
Our abilities may make us seem godly, but they come with some setbacks. For starters, the human body is far too fragile to bear even half of the gift’s true potential. That’s why we need objects to support us, mainly weapons, but it depends on the individual’s powers. Trying to wield the gift at its full power would result in your body breaking down, turning into a painful blob of nothing but melted flesh.
The powers belong solely to the Hogo-sha district, so people aren't abusing them against powerless citizens or becoming a target of jealousy. For this purpose, various security measures have been put in place, one of which is performing a ritual with anyone planning to move out of the district. It seals off their powers and prevents the person from using it in the outside world as they are no longer citizens of the Hogo-sha district. Or just walls….separating us from the rest of the town. We can still visit the rest of the town, of course.
There are other places with districts just like ours, though they are pretty far by foot since the civilizations spread worldwide after the ‘Great fall’. What’s that, you ask? Remember how I mentioned the gates of hell opening? Yeah, I meant that, literally. On that day, the world has been overrun by man-eating monsters, wiping out more than half of the human race over the course of a single week; we simply call them demons.
They will attempt to kill anything that closely resembles life and feed on its soul; the flesh is just a bonus to them. After hell was set loose, these creatures began to naturally emerge from the earth’s soil as they traveled from the depths. Their physical prowess differs from demon to demon. Wounds can heal in a couple of minutes to only a few seconds, depending on their might; severed tissue can regrow, and limbs can regenerate, but they lack our levels of intelligence.
These beings can take on various shapes; some may resemble familiar creatures, while others may appear completely otherworldly. The only way to defeat a demon is to seal it off with a sealing talisman or by using sealing arts. However, that’s a skill only few can master.
The ‘Great fall’ happened just a year before I was born. There are a few villages, towns, and even cities that have survived, but that’s just a fraction of what it used to be. That’s why they are all spread out across the globe.
As we make our way through the alley surrounded by houses made of stone and wood with brown tiles as their roofs, an alarm bell begins to ring.
“Ah, another one.”
Says Charlotte with a carefree attitude as we proceed to march forward calmly. What the alarm bell signalises is a demon appearance. We have three types of alarm bells, each designated for a different level of threat. The bigger the threat, the deeper the bell’s sound. The bell we are hearing right now is the lowest level one, most likely a demon no stronger than a nine-year-old. It’s a common occurrence.
We are about to hit a turn when a small black ball reminiscent of goo comes flying from behind the corner, crashing into a house behind us and bouncing its way through the street from one structure to another. A few seconds later, a couple of soldiers come rushing through the turn while yelling at the entity and chasing it. Despite the commotion, we didn’t bother to stop.
“That was the demon, alright.”
Oh, right, I still haven't introduced myself. I'm Yuuna Argento, thirteen years old. Hair covered in gold, eyes taking the colour of ripe oranges, and a tan covering me whole. I'm the shortest out of the three of us, about a hundred and fifty centimetres tall. I also have a thing for ponytails.
I look around as we continue to walk and spy the familiar cherry blossoms that are in full bloom whenever school starts. I never get bored of the sight. But it also signals that we have arrived at our destination. The Hogo-sha Academy.