Tales of a Lost World 105

Episode 105 The Bitter Clear Sky

‘Ayame…Ayame…! Aya—’

“Ryuu! Ryuu…wake up!”

Lightning tears across the stormy black sky above. No rain falls, however, as the huge storm clouds drift through the night sky, obscuring the luminous moonlight. A cold wind sails through the already-freezing night air, causing all to shudder in its wake.

A meager-looking fire is crackling softly nearby, shedding a dim, fiery light across the blackened meadow. The entire militia is resting in disjointed groups, some members lucky enough to sleep under a tent, while others shiver in thin sleeping bags—their only form of shelter.

Ryuu bounces into a sitting position, wiping a sweat from his brow. He gazes for a long moment at the dark, night sky. Lily crouches nervously at his side. “What’s wrong?” Ryuu inquires, turning to the worried girl.

“You were muttering in your sleep,” Lily says in a soft tone, one that is frightened but reassuring in its own right.

“I was?” Ryuu grumbles, feeling his cold forehead. He sighs, and rises suddenly to his feet. “I wouldn’t be too worried about it, if I were you. I’ve been having trouble sleeping lately, that’s all.”

“You mustn’t fret over the current condition of the other two Phonemes,” Lily replies stoutly. “I am a firm believer that justice will always prevail.”

Ryuu does not reply, but merely stares at Lily for quite some time. She finally stifles a yawn, and wishes Ryuu goodnight as she clambers into her own sleeping bag. Ryuu continues to stare with a softened look at Lily, even as she dozes off into slumber at last.

“‘Justice will always prevail,’ huh? If we are justice, then I hope that is true, because things don’t look too good for us right now.” Ryuu grabs his sword, currently locked in its cold silver sheath. He fastens it to his side, while he surveys the area immediately around him.

Nestled around the fire are the sleeping figures of Sasha and Silver, both of whom still appear to be recovering from their various injuries. Zack and George are quietly discussing battle strategy nearby, as they play Omok by candlelight.

Ryuu strides over to the water bucket nearby, aggressively grabbing a ladle and taking a gulp from it. He throws the ladle back into the pail of drinking water and sits down on the same stump the pail is sitting on.

The haunting image of Ayame returns to Ryuu’s clouded mind, as he is once again left alone to his thoughts. Ryuu punches the ground suddenly, only to grimace at the pain moments later.

A chilling blast of wind continues to rumble through the clearing, where the stampede of war has come to the day’s stop. Only a few trees surround the otherwise barren meadow, devoid of grass and mostly composed of rotting dirt. The clearing is situated above a narrow, winding ravine, where a greenish stream cuts through, a tributary from some faraway river.

“Ayame…” he murmurs softly under his breath. “I won’t let you get away this time. I promise, this time I won’t fail you. Not this time. Not if I have to kill a thousand and one enemies just to reach you.”

Ryuu sighs, venting out his feelings of frustration. “Dammit! Things couldn’t have gone worse for us since we went back to the Maple World. Just who the hell do these Fatalist guys think they are to intervene all of a sudden? They’ve gone and completely changed everything for us. And now…now they’re also after the Phonemes!”

Ryuu jumps to his feet, kicking the pail of water to the ground in a wild fit of rage. The gray bucket falls to the ground with a clang, water splashing everywhere.

Suppressing the urge to voice his frustrations in the form of a resounding howl, Ryuu storms away, heading towards the outer fringes of the meadow.

“Evening, Master Ryuu!” the two men assigned to guard duty shout as Ryuu passes them out of the clearing. Ryuu ignores them, coming to a stop nearby a gnarled, leafless tree. He leans against it, resting one foot gently on a twisted root.

Ryuu stares silently up at the blackened sky for a while, listening to the rumbling thunder overhead. He closes his eyes, taking in the sounds of the wild, barren lands in the Night World. When he opens his eyes again, Ryuu finds Lily standing silently next to him.

“Why aren’t you asleep?” Ryuu asks the girl, glancing curiously in her direction.

“You appear to be suffering quite a bit,” Lily retorts bluntly. “I may not be particularly skilled at it, but I am endeavoring to comfort you.”

Ryuu snorts slightly, though he fights the urge to smile at the girl. “I appreciate the sentiment, but I don’t need comforting. I’m just frustrated at all the bad luck we’ve been having, that’s all.”

“Your words speak of a calm and collected demeanor, but your eyes state otherwise,” Lily says, causing Ryuu to stare wonderingly at her again. “Were you close to…Ayame?”

Ryuu considers the question for a minute, before answering. “Yeah, I guess so.” He allows the retort to sink in for a few moments, before opting to elaborate. “I’ve known her since we were both kids. We grew up together, and trained together in the Joukai Academy. People always used to joke about us being an item.”

“And were you?” Lily persists.

“Not really,” Ryuu replies quickly. “Well, depends what your definition of being an item is,” he adds hastily. “Either way, all my friends from when I was a kid are dead. She’s the only one I really have left. We used to make all sorts of silly promises to each other as kids, me and Ayame. I don’t know what I’d do if I lost her as well.”

“Perhaps I can sympathize with your feelings a little,” Lily replies in a low voice. “When my brother—Kunai—left us, I always felt a powerful sense of loss without him, though I could never fully articulate those feelings. And while I may not have known him as long as the rest of you due to the circumstances, I’ve always felt a deep connection to his soul. Perhaps it is merely the bond of brother and sister.”

“Kunai?” Ryuu grunts softly. “Yeah, I suppose so. There’ve been times on this journey where I’ve wished I wasn’t so stubborn, and the falling out with Kunai was one of them.”

“Do you regret losing Kunai as a comrade?” Lily asks, peering curiously into Ryuu’s deep green eyes.

“Yeah, I guess you can say that,” Ryuu sighs. “There’ve been a lot of times already where we could’ve used him in a fight. But most of all, he was like a brother to me. I personally raised him myself when his father passed away. If there was a way to bring Kunai back to our side, believe me, I’d go after it.”

Another chilling breeze rattles through the bare, leafless trees around the two of them, as thunder continues to grumble unsettlingly overhead. Ryuu sighs deeply once again.

“But it’s no use living in the past. If I could take back things that have been said and done, I’d consider it. Right now, though, our most important priority is protecting you at all costs. They—the Fatalists, the Myougun—they wouldn’t dare lay a finger on Ivy or Ayame as long as we still have you. That’s why…that’s why we must now give it our all to protect you.”

“Protect…me…” Lily mutters under her breath. She casts her eyes downward, staring at the dead ground below. “Am I really that important to be ‘protected?’”

“Of course,” Ryuu retorts, “what kind of question is tha—”

Lily glances up in alarm, as Ryuu freezes completely. “What’s wro—”

Ryuu hurriedly places a hand over Lily’s mouth, and cradles her close to his chest. He darts behind one of the leafless trees nearby, and sneaks a glance out from behind it.

The two guards are currently standing still, conversing with a strange, third figure. The third figure appears to be brandishing a sword, as the two guards speak frantically in hushed voices. They raise their hands in fear, as the unwanted visitor steps closer to them.

“Who the hell is that?” Ryuu hisses under his breath.

In the course of a second, Ryuu draws his sword, and speeds forward, the blade of his weapon alighted in a fierce flurry of flame. Ryuu holds Lily closer to his side, as approaches the stranger’s blind side and slashes at him.

Their two blades meet with fury, and a virtual shockwave is released from the impact of their two swords. Ryuu practically drops Lily as he stares into the face of his armed opponent.

Kunai strips off the cloak that had been obscuring his face, and delivers to Ryuu a maddened look of glee. “Hello, Ryuu,” he hisses, “I’ve come for the Third Phoneme.”

6 thoughts on “Tales of a Lost World 105”

  1. YES! We have liftoff! I repeat, we have liftoff! Now let’s see it we can get out of the atmosphere.

  2. Wolfguy184 said: “if i have time, i hope to read this starting from chapter one”

    Good luck on that, buddy. 8D

    Or you can wait until the sequel comes out, because the prologue is basically a summary of Tales of a Lost Phoneme/World super condensed into the length of one chapter. (ToaLW ends at chapter 120)

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