Chapter 9:

One story's end is the beginning of another

The Symphonia of Erde (DISCONTINUED) (ARCHIVED)

Somewhere in a world called Erde, in a continent named Europia, lies a fishing town built across the riverside known as Smillia. The town was once terrorized by an unknown force; supernatural phenomenon emerged here and there creating chaos and dismay to the quiet community there. One by one came folks with terrible powers, their minds catering to their darkest desires unaware of the hidden puppeteer that controlled them to satisfy his own.Bookmark here

But over are those days of terror, as the man responsible of it all lie quietly after crashing to the earth from the heavens above. He looked at the sky, dreadful no more as the gloomy clouds fade away. A strange feeling of sorrow began filling the man's heart, and not because of his defeat.Bookmark here

"All I wanted-" William spoke suddenly, "-all I ever wanted was to escape from it all."Bookmark here

Jakob and Isaac diverted their attention to him, half-surprised that he still remained conscious despite the terrible beatdown he received. Bookmark here

"I hate the fact that I've been used my whole life, both physically and mentally, just to satisfy their desires. I hate trusting on others because someday, somehow, they're going to stab your back when you least expected it."Bookmark here

"But then, looking back, guess I'm no different then they are huh?" William snickered uncontrollably, "You raised your boy right mama! I grew up just like you! Just like how you and pa wanted!"Bookmark here

His snicker descended into a maniacal laughter as he let out his final breathe. William Shadford was no more, only his body was left lying at the center of the crater.Bookmark here

"Damn, what a waste," Isaac commented as he went to William's body to close his stiff opened eyes.Bookmark here

"If what Claude said is true about him, then he's already a goner way before all of this happen." Jakob slid into the crater, taking off his hat in respect for the dead, even for the likes of William.Bookmark here

"No, he's a goner because none of us were there for him. If only he had gotten the proper help from the right kind of people."Bookmark here

"Hey now," Jakob placed his hand on Isaac's shoulder, "it wasn't your fault you reacted violently to him. Hell, your probably not born yet when all those stuff happened to him."Bookmark here

"You're right." Isaac got up from kneeling, "It's OUR fault."Bookmark here

"What?"Bookmark here

"I mean as a community- oh you get what I mean."Bookmark here

"Yeah I get you." Jakob lit up a cigar and took a quick puff.Bookmark here

"ISAAC!! ARE YOU OUT THERE!"Bookmark here

"Oh my god! Mother!" Isaac flew out of the crater as the voice suddenly called out.Bookmark here

Jakob followed him out of the place as his sight was greeted by the mother crawling towards them. She did not even bother to get herself on her wheelchair to check upon her son. Isaac quickly landed in front of her and embraced his mother in his bony arms.Bookmark here

"It's okay mother, your son is fine," Isaac assured, "It's over now, all of this is over."Bookmark here

Seeing the Storm Revenant comforting his worried mother, Jakob was quickly reminded of how much he screwed up by accidentally pulling her into this mess. He must quickly resolve this issue before things escalate to him joining William at the crater.Bookmark here

"Ms. Nikola," Jakob called out as he slowly made his way towards them. He bowed down in front of the two much to their surprise.Bookmark here

"IapologizefordraggingyouinthismessMs. NikolaIdidnotknowyouwereinthehouseIwould've broughtWilliamtoanywherebutthehouseIswearIthoughteveryonehadbeenevacuatedplease acceptmyapologyformystupiddescisionmaking..."Bookmark here

"Alright alright, calm your horses," Isaac's mother giggled, "You're not at fault here. I should have left when they called me but I was too worried for my son."Bookmark here

"Oh mother, I'm the least person to worry about during this kind of times," Isaac replied, diverting his gaze towards Jakob, "but that doesn't mean I won't beat you up for this!"Bookmark here

"And you will never!" Isaac received a slap on the back of his head by his mother. "He got thrown around like a rag doll just to get you back into the fight!"Bookmark here

"JAKOOB!! ISAAAC!!" a voice suddenly called from afar.Bookmark here

The three of them were greeted with a white-haired maiden running towards them, with a knight and a behemoth not far behind. Bookmark here

"Sorry guys, the party's over. We won-" before Jakob could finish his sentence, he suddenly received a punch to his guts by Marie.Bookmark here

"The hell's that for!?" The hunter winced in pain.Bookmark here

"You should've at least told me you're about to do something stupid! You had me worry sick back there!"Bookmark here

"If that's the case, then I'd surely welcome a hug of relief or something," Jakob commented jokingly much to his partner's annoyance.Bookmark here

"Oh my, you two sure act like an old couple!" Isaac's mother giggled at them both, flustering the two hunters.Bookmark here

"Uhhh, mother, I think we should get going now."Bookmark here

"Aye, yer son's right Ms Nikola. Now that all's well that ends well, we shoul-" Ryleigh noticed that someone was missing from the group- "where's Claude?"Bookmark here

The four of them looked back and saw the Behemoth Doctor kneeling besides the lifeless William Shadford. His stoic expression still maintained on his face, but deep down he was sad and disappointed, for his failure to save this man from walking down the path that led him to his demise.Bookmark here

"I did not expect him to end up like this," Claude spoke to himself, but his voice was loud enough for the others to hear. Bookmark here

"He could've stopped there and then. I am willing to help him, to counsel him for the next few years or so if that's how long it will take. Yet..."Bookmark here

"Hey now," Jakob placed his hand onto Claude's shoulder, "you've did your best by being there for him. Even just for a moment, you're the only guy in Erde he could rely own."Bookmark here

"Turning down a chance of redemption was his choice. And now, he paid the price for it and there's nothing we could do about it."Bookmark here

"I-I guess you're right. It is time for us to move on."Bookmark here

"May this be a lesson to us all," Isaac's mother interrupted, "not just for the five of us, but to all the good people of Smillia."Bookmark here

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A day after the incident, the whole thing quickly blow over as life goes on normally for the townsfolk of Smillia. Bookmark here

The Dario brothers, owners of the circus troop; Notte Del Circo, agreed to leave the place and take their business elsewhere. They had suffered quite an amount of loss from the collateral damage and injured personnel caused by the incident. However, rumour has it that the younger of the two; Benson Dario, left the circus business to his brother to pursue his own dreams. Who knows what kind of ambitions does the timid man has in mind but as the story goes, the elder brother was fully supportive of the decision.Bookmark here

On the other hand, a proper funeral was held for William Shadford where nearly all of the townsfolk of Smillia attended, including Isaac, his mother and his newfound friends. William might not be remembered as a hero, but his life and demise served a good reminder to the upcoming generations of the people of Smillia; that within the happy and carefree life of the community, there might lurk an unheard evil by those outside a household. All it took was a more caring and attentive community to prevent all of this from happening.Bookmark here

As for the party of four, their stay at Smillia had been quite a ride. The incident of William Shadford, which will be soon known by many as the 'Terror of the Crimson Crescent', had become a perfect addition for Ryleigh's journal of adventure (of course it was Jakob who had to write it down). Bookmark here

But alas, all good things had to come to an end. The party of four were invited to Isaac's place that night for a small farewell feast, in which they gladly attended.Bookmark here

"Oh dear, it would be rude of me to have my guests help me in preparing dinner."Bookmark here

"Don't sweat it Ms. Nikola. I came here early specifically to lend a helping hand, and probably learn some recipes or two," Jakob insisted, rapidly dicing an onion before dumping it into the pot of stew.Bookmark here

"It seems you're friend here have quite a passion for cooking, isn't it Isaac?"Bookmark here

"Yeah, he's an odd one," Isaac blatantly replied.Bookmark here

"Yer son's right Ms. Nikola," Ryleigh interrupted from the dining room, " 'e made 'imself our official cook, as if being a scribe wasn't enough. Yer should 'ear 'im shoutin' and cursin' if one of us screwed up 'is cookin'. Beats those army commanders I tell ya!"Bookmark here

Isaac's mother giggled at the knight's statement, "Oh my, next you're gonna tell me he's the one handling the finance!"Bookmark here

"Nah, that would be Claude."Bookmark here

"Well I hope y'all enjoy badmouthing me while you still can." Jakob emerged from the kitchen holding a ladle in his hand and a knife in the other. "The stew's been boiling for quite some time Ms. Nikola. I would consider it done but I think it's best if you take a look at it."Bookmark here

"I see. Mind pushing me to the kitchen dear?" Bookmark here

Without objection, Isaac escorted his mother to the kitchen as they both left the dining room. Ryleigh looked at them both before turning his attention to Claude, who had been sitting quietly beside him all this time.Bookmark here

"Yer know Claude, I wish we could invite that boyo into our party. 'e'll make a gran' member don't yer think?"Bookmark here

"Perhaps. But I think his paraplegic mother might need him more."Bookmark here

"Aye, yer right about that-" Ryleigh turned his head to the kitchen, seeing Jakob knocking Isaac's head with a ladle as the elderly mother laughed- "she's lucky to 'ave a son like 'im."Bookmark here

"Sorry for interrupting but is dinner ready?" Marie appeared out of nowhere, her hair as messy as someone who just woke up from sleeping. As a matter of fact, she literally just woke up from taking a nap at the living room.Bookmark here

"I hope you dreamed well just now, suddenly dozing off at someone else's house," Jakob answered displeased by his partner's behaviour.Bookmark here

"Oh don't worry about, she already got my mother's permission. And as for dinner-" Isaac emerged from the kitchen in his revenant form, a tray of roasted duck on one hand and a pot of stew on another- "make yourself at home."Bookmark here

"Alright!"Bookmark here

The six of them indulged themselves in a simple feast that night, chatting away happily as the night went by peacefully under the bright full moon. The party of four had made a strong connection with the mother and son of the Nikola household throughout their stay at Smillia. In a way, it was them who welcomed the party here, thus it's only right for them to have the special goodbye. Bookmark here

As the night grows older and all the food was eaten, the party was ready to leave the house. However, it was only then that the bounty hunter reminded the Storm Revenant that some business had yet to be taken care of.Bookmark here

"You promised me payment Isaac, or have you forgotten all about it!?" Jakob glared at Isaac sharply whose calm expression was nowhere to be seen as he tried to recall such promises.Bookmark here

"Crap crap crap. Lets see, I helped fix the stagecoach, I gave Ryleigh my side of the story-"Bookmark here

" 'My services are by no mean's free', remember that?"Bookmark here

"Oh come on Jakob, couldn't you just let it slide just this time," Marie interrupted the discussion, "I mean most of us did it voluntarily."Bookmark here

"I would, but he promised me. There may be no signed contracts involved but I take promises VERY seriously. Even verbal once."Bookmark here

"Plus, I broke a rib or two."Bookmark here

"My son forgetting his own promises? For shame." Isaac's mother shook his head. "How much does he owe you anyways?"Bookmark here

"500 gold, not a coin more or a coin less. I even have witnesses to back me up in case of you're skeptical about the deal."Bookmark here

"Aye, we could confirm," Ryleigh added as the other two nodded.Bookmark here

Isaac's mother looked at her son in disappointment. Not only does he not tell his own mother about the deal he made with them, but he even owed them such payment that they could not possibly afford.Bookmark here

"Look, we don't have enough to pay off the debt my son owes you, but like you said, a promise's a promise. So-" the elderly mother patted her son's back- "how about letting my son join your party? Make him explore the world just like his father before him!"Bookmark here

"Wait what!?"Bookmark here

His mother's descision caught everyone off guard.Bookmark here

"Oh shi- I didn't mean it like that Ms Nikola. If you truly couldn't pay of your son's debt I'm willing to-"Bookmark here

"Nonsense. I know that you're reluctant to accept him because you don't want to leave a paraplegic elder like me all alone in her house with no one to care for," Isaac's mother replied, "but I can assure you I'm more than able to care for myself! Plus, I've been trying to kick my son out of this house since he started flying around with that 'stormy' power of his."Bookmark here

"Wouldn't the townsfolk need their silent guardian of the sky though?" Marie jumped in to the conversation. They're still hesitant to accept Isaac into the team.Bookmark here

"Not really actually," Isaac admitted, "only for the past few months I became active here because of William's shenanigans. Otherwise, I normally zip into neighbouring towns and villages."Bookmark here

"And you'll be able to zip into more towns and villages, becoming their hero or whatever it is your planning to do with your powers if you get your butt off this house."Bookmark here

"But-"Bookmark here

"No 'buts' mister! I want to see you off this house the first thing in the morning!"Bookmark here

And just like that, Isaac Nikola, the mysterious 'Storm Revenant' of Smillia, ends up joining the party to venture across the world. Ryleigh was happy that his wish became true, while Jakob was hesitant in accepting Isaac himself as a replacement for his unpaid debt, but accepted it anyways because the kind old lady insisted it too much.Bookmark here

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The party was ready to leave immediately the next morning, but due to yesterday's affairs, they dropped by the Nikola household one last time to pick up Isaac, who was forced by his mother to join them as a replacement for the debt he had failed to pay.Bookmark here

"Seriously Ms Nikola, I'm willing to let it slide if letting go your son would make your life harder," Jakob tried to negotiate but Isaac's mother was having none of that today.Bookmark here

"I can assure you I'm fine all alone. I've been like this since Isaac was a wee little kid, changing his diapers and giving him baths. Oh, you should hear about that one time Isaac ran around naked but he couldn't hold himself so he ends up dumping-"Bookmark here

"ALRIGHT MOTHER I THINK WE SHOULD GET GOING-" Isaac quickly interrupted as he tossed his luggage into the stagecoach.Bookmark here

She giggled at Isaac's embarrassed reaction, but looking back at everything that had happened so far, she realized now how much her son had grown up. She took a step back and realized how much she'll end up missing her son and all the time they had been together. Alas, this was for his own good. Just like his father before, he ought to explore the world, learning and growing more from it, not being restraint by something as meek as a wheelchair-bound elderly like her.Bookmark here

"My son, come here for a second will you."Bookmark here

Isaac quickly attended to his mother, who held up both her hands and place it on her son's cheeks.Bookmark here

"Listen, be good out there, alright? Don't be rude to others, don't make yourself a burden for everyone else, always listen to elders but most importantly, take care of your attitude."Bookmark here

"I will mother." Isaac removed his mother's hands from his face. He inched himself closer and gave his mother a kiss to her forehead. "I will be good."Bookmark here

The old lady smiled upon hearing her son's assurance.Bookmark here

"If things did not work out, you can always come flying back to me alright? I'll be waiting at the front door."Bookmark here

As the mother and son exchanged their final goodbyes, it was time for them to leave the town for good. The magical stagecoach started to move as they finally departed to their next destination. Isaac's mother waved goodbye as the carriage appeared smaller and smaller before disappearing into the horizon. Bookmark here

"WE'LL MAKE SURE YOUR SON'S IN ONE PIECE MS NIKOLA!!" Marie screamed at the top of her lungs.Bookmark here

The elderly lady giggled at her action. Her son is definitely in good hands now.Bookmark here

"If only you're here to see this, Mikhail," she whispered to herself.Bookmark here

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Somewhere amidst the many named and unnamed woods of Europia, lies a forest shunned by those who traversed the roads; merchants, bandits and wanderers alike. The Misty Woods, as its name implies, were known for its seemingly never-ending mists regardless the season. Summer, winter, spring, it all meant nothing to that place for only mist covered the cold, sunless land.Bookmark here

Some believed the place was cursed some time ago by a nameless witch for reasons unknown. Some believed it was the work of the guardian spirits, the mist was but a barrier between our world and theirs. And some believed that the mist itself was a being, living and sentient, since the dawn of man, perhaps even before.Bookmark here

However, even when putting superstition aside, the conditions of the Misty Woods were far too risky to be traversed simply. Its seemingly endless mist blurs the visibility of those who wander in it. Too many cases of people entering the place never to be seen again. Those who did managed to leave the accursed place spoke of unsettling atmosphere throughout their wandering. As if the woods did not welcome them, that their lives were truly in the mercy of the mist and they were lucky that the place did not want them dead, thus so they were ushered out.Bookmark here

Despite that, all the tales was before the Misty Woods gained its even worse reputation by those who frequent travels. For back then, there used to be a small village neighbouring the Misty Woods less than a stone throws away.Bookmark here

For five years, the small village suffered terrible famine. The soil refused to grow crops even when the sky rained, farmed animals dying due to unknown circumstances and hunting in the Misty Woods was a definitely a no go. The villagers relied on outside help such as the relief sent by capital town, but the road leading up to the village was a hotspot for bandits and lowlife scums. Constantly robbed, the outside folks end up refused to lend their hands to the villagers.Bookmark here

It was a matter of time before the superstitious folks started pointing their fingers to someone whom they could attribute all this misfortune. And that someone was none other than the only daughter of the Stirling family; Anna Stirling.Bookmark here

She was only five, the only child born at the exact same year where the famine started to rise, but what triggered the blame was the colour of her hair. As red as the scarlet blood of men, yet both Anna's parents were brown haired.Bookmark here

Perhaps there was an unknown member of the family tree in which Anna had inherited, for complex and mysterious are the work of human genes. But for the superstitious folks of the village; especially the elders, it was a bad omen from the get go. Red hair were often attributed to many evil things such as vampires, curses, or practice of forbidden witchcraft.Bookmark here

Hence, there was only one logical thing to do for the villagers. Get rid of Anna Stirling, and everything will return towards normality.Bookmark here

Of course, this idea was quickly refused by her parents who strongly believed that their daughter was innocent. She had no connection with this famine and her conditions were but a mere coincidence. And naturally, the couple's response brought hate and spite towards their family by the whole village community.Bookmark here

Constantly harassed and socially exiled, the household was often provoked to get rid of their child until one point, the parents too were accused as 'witches' or 'family of the damned'. They could not leave that place despite all the cruelty thrown upon them due to the lack of resources for they too were victimized by the famine.Bookmark here

And so, poor Anna grew up in a village that despised her existence. She could not wander freely outside for the fear of being taken away, perhaps even murdered by those who blamed the famine unto her name. There were times where she was betrayed by those who supposedly offered her 'help', only to be tied up and get rid of but was rescued by her iron-willed father. There were times where gullible children who had genuine concerns of Anna were shooed away from her by their paranoid parents. She grew up surrounded by hate for sins that she did not commit.Bookmark here

Thus came her odd attachment to the Misty Woods. The Stirling household was nearest to the accursed place making it easy for Anna to enter the woods unnoticed. She often frolicked around that place, wandering freely in a place free from hate. Sometimes she talked to the mist pretending that they were people who actually accepted her existence, unaware that the mist listened.Bookmark here

She danced and played, enjoying a world free of hate while the mist too danced and played, enjoying the company of an innocent child. When her playtime ends and she wished to return home, the mist would open a path for her back, thus she never gets lost no matter how deep she ventured into the woods.Bookmark here

One night struck where everything changed for the Stirlings, or better yet, the whole village itself. It was the last straw for the villagers who decided to raid their home that night and end it there and then. They marched down to the house with pitchforks, spears and torches in their hands.Bookmark here

Without warning, the husband, who just returned home and have yet to enter the house, was beaten senselessly by the cruel folks. His wife saw the horrific event unfold through the window. Instinctively, she grabbed her daughter's hand to escape the senseless mob coming after them, but quickly found out that their house was surrounded. With nowhere to go, they fled to the attic and locked the door, praying and hoping that this nightmare will soon be over.Bookmark here

The sound of smashing glass and dozens of folks searching for the two remaining Stirling thundered throughout the house. Loud and terrible were those sounds as it scrapped the wife's mind, slowly tipping her until she finally reached her breaking point.Bookmark here

"I CAN'T TAKE THIS ANYMORE!! EVERYTHING HAPPENED BECAUSE OF YOU!!" she lashed out at her terrified daughter.Bookmark here

Her sense of morality now gone, the mother grabbed a sharp stake conveniently placed right beside her. She should have listened to the elders; end their daughter the moment she was born so that the bad omen will not fall upon them. Alas, they refused, thinking that she would be a beacon of hope during times of dread. But that mindset was long gone now but perhaps, it was not too late yet.Bookmark here

She'll kill her daughter there and then. The famine will be gone and the Stirlings would no longer suffer harassment. Perhaps, they'll even be raised as heroes for breaking the curse.Bookmark here

But what about the child?Bookmark here

Who cares about the child! The little bastard took everything from them. Her existence brought nothing but pain! Thus thought the mad mother.Bookmark here

Without a sense of hesitation, Anna's mother went after poor Anna, scared and heartbroken by her the sudden betrayal. The little girl, small and nimble, swiftly ran through the barrels and boxes that were stored there at the attic, outmaneuvering her mother and dodging the reckless slashes and stabs brought upon to her.Bookmark here

No second thoughts were made as Anna jumped out from the attic window. She came crashing down and bruised herself but by luck's grace, no bones were broke. Luck also sided with her as the whole mob had already entered the house for if one or two awaited back there, she would've been pierced by spears midair.Bookmark here

However, her crash did not go unnoticed. One or two realized her presence outside and alerted everyone else. Not willing to back down yet, Anna scrambled to the only place where her existence was accepted. Into the Misty Woods she ran, as the furious mob went after her.Bookmark here

Deeper and deeper Anna ventured through the woods. She did not look back nor she cared for what lied ahead. She simply wanted to escape, to run away from all those who despised her, who hated her, who betrayed her. She ran and ran until she could ran no more. Looking back to see that no one was behind, Anna rested under a tree. Bookmark here

The emotions kicked in as she realized her current situation. With nowhere to go and no one to return to, she curled herself up and cried. Cried and cried hoping that at least her sadness would go away, unaware that her cry had given away her place from the pursuing mob.Bookmark here

The villagers saw her and approached. They surrounded her so that she may not escape. With pitchforks, torches and spears in their hands, they were ready to end the cause of their famine.Bookmark here

However, it seems that they had forgotten to whom the Misty Woods belong. As one man raised his spear to stab the crying child, both his arms was suddenly sliced by an unseen blade. Everyone including Anna was shocked. The man screamed in pain as blood gushed out from his sliced limbs, but his screaming was cut short as he was circled by thick smoke. Suddenly, he was lifted to the air and smashed to the ground with terrible force. His flesh and bones splattered everywhere like broken glass shards from a smashed bottle.Bookmark here

The mob became hysterical as they all ran for their lives. But thick was the mists of the Misty Woods, none of them found their way home. One by one the villagers had their limbs and head decapitated. One by one they were thrown and dragged across the woods like worthless rag dolls. One by one their body was ripped and torn like that of a paper doll given to an uncaring toddler. They screamed and they hollered, begging for the horrors to stop but the mist did not care. They had hurt its child, dared to make her cry in the domain where she had always cheered.Bookmark here

After the last remaining mob had their heads ripped and guts torn out, the mist went after the village itself. Long had they sinned, long had they wronged the child, that night they received their judgement.Bookmark here

The village was surrounded by mist much to the horror of the folks who did not join the mob. Steadily the mist grew and grew as it eventually covered the whole atmosphere of that place. The humid smoke began suffocating anyone who touched it, intruded their mouth and noses as it slowly crushed their lungs. Those who retreated in their house found no safety from this calamity as the mist simply slipped through the unseen holes and gaps of their homes and into their bodies.Bookmark here

None survived that night let it be men or women, young or old. All was held responsible within the mists' judgement. Just like that, the village was gone and with much irony, the soils of the village became fertile since then. Quickly the bushes and trees grew, burying the corpses and the houses until it too had become part of the accursed woods.Bookmark here

As for Anna, none knows what happens to her. Some time had passed since the disappearing of the village. Those who managed to pass through the woods safely recalled times of hearing happy cheering like that of a young girl. There were sightings of a red-haired ghostly maiden frolicking around the woods as if it was her own home. Some even claimed they had close encounters with said maiden who ushered them out safely before disappearing almost instantly.Bookmark here

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But whatever happened, whatever fate occurred to the little girl, travelers be warned for the Misty Woods was not a safe place to wander around. And for those who happen to pass by that accursed place, if you do believe Anna is in there; as a guardian or as a spirit, try waving hello and perhaps, you'll see her silhouette happily waving back.
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