-=One Month Later=-
(warning: VERY FREAKING LONG!)
Time passed by for everyone on Victoria Island with very little new happenings; no intense battles sprang to life, no giant monsters invaded, and no sense of ultimate evil pervaded anyone’s senses. For a full thirty days, peace seemed to return to the once troubled island. With no great demon to prey upon Victoria, feelings of calm and joy increased throughout the populace. More fortunate, the number of deaths among adventurers from monster attacks decreased greatly, and similar deaths among civilians were virtually nonexistent. Victorians were also much less fearful with the oni’s presence gone, which led to a rise in travel between cities and towns, as well as economy from shopping. Monster hunting activities also spiked. For the first time in years, Victoria Island was safe and secure once more.
This time of peace also benefited those who helped bring it about: the four lightbringers and those who aided them. With a month of easier times upon them, the group took the opportunity to train themselves, each with their respective job master. This was partly for their own benefit, but more so for the unfortunate chance that forces of darkness would make another appearance. After all, these adventurers were the only people aside from the job masters that knew that while the Victorian Oni was defeated, the unknown evil was still alive and hidden. Alongside this fact was the speculation that the next villain that may appear would be stronger than the oni.
Since the group of heroes was diverse in their classes, their training would, for the most part, separate them. Despite this, they all vowed to each other that thirty days after their training began, they would reunite stronger than before. They made that promise the morning after their celebration after destroying the oni, then parted ways immediately after.
Now, thirty days later….
Shadow woke up to a dim yet persistent sunshine as day broke on Kerning City. Like always, the sky was entirely blotted by a sea of gray clouds that spewed endlessly from the factories in the distance. The city’s everyday hustle and bustle was slowly getting started as morning made itself known in the urban part of Victoria.
The one-armed bandit rubbed his eyes as he struggled to sit up on a soft bed he’d slept on. As he moved, he could feel a good deal of aches throughout his body. His muscles were, without a shred of doubt in his mind, the most sore they had been since he left his homeworld. His entire body seemed to resist every move he ushered out of it, as though it was an overused engine refusing to start. It was a feeling he was all too familiar with; these aches and pains were the constant, burning reminders of his prior training.
Nonetheless, Shadow didn’t harbor any anger out of having them. He knew, as he had always known since he was 17, that pain like this was a large part of his life as an adventurer. He welcomed the harsh feelings, accepting them as though they were a part of his very soul. This was something he learned to do as he grew; to accept the prices that come with training, physical and mental. The village ninja who had instructed him in the past always reminded him that the rewards that came from rigorous exercises were worth the grueling aches that accompanied them; all he had to do was see through the soreness.
Shadow checked himself over as he awoke. Currently, he no longer wore the traditional clothing of his home village, as he was offered new vestments thirty days earlier, when he began his training with Dark Lord. The master ninja gave him new clothing to wear, which would both protect him better and make him feel more like a part of the maple world. He now wore a studded leather set of clothing, black in color, along with a black guise bandana with a black-colored plate that covered most of his disheveled black hair, gold rover gloves, and red mystique shoes. He was reluctant to try them first, as he had worn his traditional village ninja outfit everyday before, but despite the traditionalist he was, he was apt to trying new things now and then, especially since his arrival into the Maple World.
The biggest change, however, was the semi-readdition of a long-missed body part: his arm, which had been severed during the battle in his village. The bandit took a moment to marvel at it as he usually did in the morning. His new arm, which was a cybernetic version, was robotic in appearance. It had been ordered by Dark Lord from a place known as Omega Sector and given to him the first day of his training. Though it was awkward to work with an artificial limb at first, Shadow quickly got used to it. The arm became second nature to him less than five days into the training.
After checking out the arm, Shadow looked around at the room around him. He’d been living in this room his entire month of training, yet he could never stop looking at it. It awed him in some ways, yet freaked him out in others. The room was entirely purple and black in color, with purple carpeting, a black ceiling, and the four walls were vertically striped with the two colors. The colors were always in his eyes, whether he was getting up from the round, violet-colored two-man bed, or going over to the kitchen corner across from the bed to eat something.
No matter how alien it looked to him, though, Shadow always reminded himself that it was to be expected, thanks to two simple facts. The first was that the room belonged to none other than the assassin among his group of friends, the purple-haired, green-eyed, 18-year-old girl known simply as Crow. From this fact, he knew he was a beggar who couldn’t be a chooser. The second fact was that she’d told him on the first day that black and purple were her favorite colors. “That must be the understatement of the year,” he remembered saying to her.
His thoughts zoomed to Crow after he scanned the room over. He looked down to his right to see the young rogue asleep and buried in the covers. Her soft breathing barely reached his ears, even though it was the only sound in the room at the moment. Though she was more than happy to hone her skills for a month, she wasn’t an early riser like he was.
*Guess I have to wake her…AGAIN,* Shadow thought, stifling a chuckle. *And we all know how THAT goes.* “Good morning, Crow,” he vocalized pleasantly as he gently rubbed her back.
“Mmmmph,” a muffled feminine voice moaned from beneath the covers. “Leemelone.”
The male rogue rolled his eyes as he glanced at a nearby clock, which read 6:30 a.m. They had a half-hour. “Come on, time to get up,” he urged louder.
“Nnnnngh!” The reply was also louder..and more annoyed. “Five…fimorminits,” she blathered back at him.
“Oh, come on!” Shadow said, ruffling her hair. Suddenly, a hand came out from beneath the covers and grabbed the wrist of his fleshy arm.
“WHAT did I say about touching my hair?” the muffled voice said rather fiercely, a green eye poking from beneath the sheets.
Shadow barely managed to hold himself back from laughing. “Um, I think it was something about, ‘If you touch my hair, I’ll wake up!'”
“Oh, I’ll wake up, alright!” Crow’s voice yelled as she sprang out from hiding, catching Shadow with a tackle. She burst into laughter as they began tussling about the bed.
“Well, it’s about time!” Shadow shot back playfully. “Now, on your feet!” He then picked her up in his arms and stood on the bed.
“H-hey!” Crow cried out, still laughing. “I can get out of bed myself, you know!”
“Not from what I saw,” Shadow replied with a wink as he set her down. He then strode over to the window, observing the city traffic’s continual morning growth. “Y’know, this month sure went by fast,” he said softly in a reminiscent manner.
“Yeah, it has,” Crow said. “Not to mention we’ve improved a lot in a short amount of time. I really underestimated my expectations.”
“Dark Lord is a good teacher,” Shadow said in agreement. “I’m learning things from him that I never learned in my homeworld. These abilities…they’re simply amazing.”
“I’m glad you like ’em,” Crow replied. “Believe it or not, though, I’ve heard of many more things we can learn in the future. Dark Lord confirmed this when I asked him, but he said we won’t be able to learn them for quite some time, at least until after we’ve become even stronger than now.”
“Well, at least we have new talents to help us with that,” Shadow said optimistically. “Well, it’s been five minutes already. Need to get ready or anything?”
“Meh, just breakfast,” Crow replied nonchalantly as she checked herself over. The female rogue was wearing a Purple Mystique set and shoes, silver rover gloves, and a guise. The guise was similar to Shadow’s, except the metal plate on hers was silver. A Black Hole claw was clasped on her right hand.
“Alright, let’s down that real quick and get on the way,” Shadow said. As he and Crow walked to the kitchen, the bandit couldn’t help but unholster out one of his twin daggers and look over it, holding it in his fake arm. Then he took out his other dagger with his real arm, and looked at them together. He smiled; he was glad he’d brought both along, even if he could only use one at first.
“Oh, Crow,” Shadow said suddenly. He then looked at the lady rogue’s stopped form a moment before his gaze ventured about the room and back to Crow again. “Thanks…thanks for letting me stay here over the month. It was very generous of you.”
Crow took a moment to bow, even as a flushed smile came over her face. “Shadow, you’ve done a lot for me and this world in such a small amount of time. I was honored that you agreed to stay here…since it was merely my way of thanking you.”
For the next few moments, the two thieves stared at each other, similar feelings of warmth and friendship pulsating in their hearts.
Weight: 150 lbs.
Job: Chunin ninja(chief bandit equivalent)
Weapon of choice: His twin sai, known as the Cobra Fangs
Weight: 125 lbs.
Weapon of choice: Black Hole Claw and Ilbi stars
“C’mon, Gen, just concentrate,” Emma urged. “Just like we practiced. Think of it as just like the fire arrow I use.”
Emma watched rather exitedly as Genya prepared her newest spell, aimed at a wooden target. The younger Raine couldn’t help but break a sweat as she held her staff straight up in front of her, while her other arm held back a luminescent beam of energy, bent like string, that was connected to the staff. Indeed, she had read about and practiced the spell before, but every attempt required an astronomical amount of mental focus. Every ounce of concentration she pushed on herself made her body ache that much more.
Despite that, Genya wouldn’t give up, not in the slightest. It had taken her well over eight hours to get this far in mastering her latest magic, and she was determined to keep going. Her bent arm managed to pull the string of light back farther. Forget about everything around you, Emma had told her. Forget about the fact that you’re outside in Ellinia, near the forest floor, with the numerous beams of sunlight shining through the trees. Don’t even worry about the new equipment you got recently: the arc staff in your hands powering your magic, the blue moonlight robe you’re wearing, the blue guiltian upon your long, brown hair, the blue arten and blue moon shoes rounding out your wizardly clothing. Don’t worry about any of that, Emma had explained. Only worry about the spell.
“Just a little more,” Emma said encouragingly. “Keep it up, Gen! I know you can do it!” She clenched her fists in anticipation as she watched. Like Genya, she herself only cared about the spell about to be executed. She didn’t care about the hall staff she earned in her training a week ago, or even about the fact that, except for their being red instead of blue, her clothes were the same style as her sister’s.
The junior Raine grunted as she pulled the string back. It wasn’t long before her entire body was soundlessly wailing in agony for her to rest, but she paid it no heed. *Just…a little…more…* she mentally told herself. *Make…it…appear…the…arrow…* She yanked her arm back an inch farther. Instantly, an arrow, made of the same luminous energy as the string appeared. *The arrow!*
“NOW!” Emma cried out.
On cue, Genya released the string, and the bright arrow flew out from the makeshift “bow.” The arrow sailed up to the fragile target, nailing it in the dead red center. Just as the arrow made contact, the target burst into numerous shards of wood.
“YES!” Emma cheered as she ran up to her sister. “You did it, Gen! You hit the target with holy arrow!”
Genya gave a strained smile in reply, her exhausted body starting to slump to the ground. Emma caught her just before she hit the ground.
“Believe me, sis, it was the same way for me,” Emma said amidst laughter. “You did great, though. You finally hit the target. Now all you have to do is keep practicing. Before you know it, it’ll become second nature to you.”
“Yes….second….nature…” Genya responded between heavy gasps. “But….right….now…..still….so…..hard….”
“Magic like this is never easy in the beginning,” Emma lectured. “Remember what it was like with the energy ball when you first became a spellcaster? Now, you can cast that spell like there’s no tomorrow. Just keep working on that holy arrow, and it’ll be the same way. Besides, your healing spell has come a long way, too!”
Genya nodded, taking a breath of fresh air. As she fought her physical strains to sit back up, she raised her hand in the air, and a mystical curtain of neon green surrounded her for a moment. After it disippated, she was able to get up to her feet easily.
“Y’know, Gen,” Emma said softly, “I’m really glad you chose to be a cleric. Having those holy spells will really help us on our journey. Plus, it really seems to go with that kind, selfless personality of yours.” Her eyes began to mist. “Mom and dad would be real proud of you.”
Genya nodded wordlessly, her eyes also catching the approaching feeling of tears. She ran over to her sister and embraced her.
“Hey, you two!” another voice called out. “Ready for a break yet?” The Raines looked behind them to see a cheerful Amber Sage walking up to them, holding a tray on which sat two glasses of lemonade. The two sisters nodded as they ran for their drinks. “So, how long have you two been at it now?”
“Since this morning,” Emma explained. “I’ve pretty much got fire arrow in my head, and poison brace is coming along somewhat. Genya’s managed to get her healing spell down. She just started on holy arrow last night. It’s still new to her, but she’s really working on it.”
“Great to hear!” Amber cheered. “It sounds like you really earned your break today then.” She stopped for a moment to think. “Actually, this is more than just a break. Grendel told me to tell you that he has some things to visit with you about. What say we go see him?”
“Sounds good to me,” Emma said. She looked over to Genya, who nodded as she sipped her refreshment. “Alright, let’s go then.” She headed towards the nearest rope leading up to the branches, Genya and Amber tailing her.
As Emma climbed up, Amber took a notice to whisper in Genya’s ear. “I couldn’t help but watch you practice your spells every now and then,” she mentioned quietly. “You’ve done an amazing job this month, Gen. You and your sister. I’m so proud of you both.”
“Th…thank you,” Genya replied, blushing. Throughout the compliments, the junior Raine barely noticed she was holding Amber’s hand.
Suddenly, Emma came sliding back down the rope, suprising the other two. “I just thought of something,” she said. “Little sister of mine, I believe it’s time.”
Confusion wrote itself over Genya’s face. “Time for…?”
“It’s time for you to start using your real name again.”
Genya gasped in shock. “My…real…n-name?” she stammered, hardly composed. “B-but…I…”
“No, Gen, it’s okay,” Amber cut in supportively. “Y’know, Emma’s right. No matter how you feel about it, you should go back to being yourself.”
Genya opened her mouth to respone, but nothing came out. She merely stood there, wondering how she was to go about this subject being brought to her. She thought heavily about it. Then, she quickly remembered; “Genya” wasn’t her real first name. In fact, it wasn’t a name at all. Instead, it was one of the many words that made up the ancient Ellinian language, a language she’d learned much about before her spellcaster career began. The word “genya” meant “silence,” and it had been a huge part of the four-month period in her life in which she stopped speaking entirely. People in the village began calling her that within the first few days of her abandoning her voice, and she eventually accepted it. Now, however, in this moment, she could feel things were changing. More importantly, she knew why.
“Myself…you mean…my talking self…” Genya said slowly.
Emma laughed. “Of course we mean your talking self, silly!” she chimed. “See, before those four months you stopped talking, you were just like any other person, always talking about things. In fact, you usually spoke more than I did. That isn’t a bad thing, though. In fact, I’d really like to see and hear you like that again. It’s like the good old days…back when you were…well, YOU. And don’t even think about second-guessing this idea. I know you don’t speak as often as you used to, but hearing your voice return over a month ago…that was, doubtless in my mind, the first step in you recovering your old-no, your true identity. Plus, you speak a little more with each passing day. Believe me, sis-you are Genya no longer.”
“That’s right,” Amber agreed, squeezing the hand of the younger Raine she still held. “You’re Melanie Raine.”
“Melanie…yes…Melanie Raine…” Though tears flowed down her eyes, a smile was steadily forming on the renamed Melanie’s face, a smile usually seen on someone after they had found a missing something after a long time period of being without it. She leaned in close to Amber, but at the same time extended an arm towards Emma, an arm that was searching for a warm hug. Emma gladly complied.
For the next few moments, the female trio stood there in the forest village, holding each other, privately rejoicing Melanie’s moment of renewal.
Weight: 120 lbs.
Job: Wizard F/P
Weapon of choice: Arc Staff
Melanie Raine(formerly called Genya)
Weight: 100 lbs.
Weapon of choice: Hall Staff
Weight: 105 lbs.
Weapon of choice: none
In another part of Kerning City, far from the urban interior where much of the usual crowds were at, a lone swordsman walked silently towards the abandoned construction zones. Away from various monsters and adventurers he walked, having no real interest in fighting today. His mood was somber and his head was held low. He clutched his newest two-handed sword, a Doombringer, in one hand, dragging it across the brick-laden ground. His other hand held a white rose, and the hand’s arm held a piece of cloth close to his sid. He was clothed in a mithril platine suit of armor, along with blue carzen boots and dragon gauntlets. On his face was a metallic mask, which made his soft, slow breathing sound somewhat inhuman.
Damien Hawthorne’s silent trudge through the quiet section of the city came to an end as he stopped before a large mound of dirt. Upon the earth was another white rose, slightly withered but still standing. The hardened gaze that graced his eyes earlier quickly softened. A tear streamed from his eye as he dropped to his knees.
“I…I brought you another rose, Claire,” he said to the makeshift grave before him, fighting with all of his inward might to keep his voice from breaking. He carefully placed the new white flower beside the older one. For a moment, he stared at the pair of flora admiringly, noting the differences between them.
“That…that first flower,” he uttered sadly. “That…that first rose was going to be your birthday present, had you lived just one more day.” He rubbed his eyes. “You always told me you loved roses. I still remember the day we officially started dating. I gave you a light blue rose, one of the rarest of its kind. I haven’t forgotten the kiss you gave me right after either.” He forced a light chuckle at the happy memories, though he knew nothing could mend his broken heart at the moment.
“Y’know,” Damien began again, breathing deeply as he spoke, “I’ll also never forget how you teased me about my…..” He swallowed. In this moment, the next word wasn’t easy for him to say, but he went on anyway. “My….procrastination. Sometimes, when the seriousness of life wasn’t around, I would relax a bit too much and let the delays rush headlong into me. I would always get home from training too late in the night, I would usually sleep in too much of the morning…sometimes I only gave you a birthday present at the last possible moment….I was usually the slow kind of guy, who sometimes preferred to relax longer than allowed.” He ran a hand through his thick, unruly, black hair. “Even after our home was attacked…I was still taking it easy sometimes. I think just about every day we were together, you were the leader of our expeditions. Heck, i still haven’t gotten my hair cut today!” Somehow, he managed an unforced smile. “You always talked about my hair and how long it was, and how you wish I’d just cut it. I’d always laugh it off, saying there was always-” A lump caught in his throat. He fought it back down. “Always…always tomorrow. I always said that about a lot of things…”
He took a minute to compose his thoughts before he continued. “Now, however…now, I truly understand. I never understood it before, not even on the day you died, but…now, I know there are some things in life you can’t let wait….not even for a few minutes. Especially if you don’t want to….to lose….to lose….” He had to stop his speech, as sorrow and grief threatened to overtake him. His hand unconciously brushed the dirt of Claire’s grave as he held back any weeping.
“I blame myself for your death, Claire,” he spat bitterly, a flash of anger appearing in his eyes. “I should’ve stuck with you. I shouldn’t have told you to run. We…we were at the outskirts of the city when all those…..those FREAKS appeared. There were too many of them and I worried about you. I worried so much…” He took a breath, exhaling harshly. “I worried so much, I didn’t think about the consequences of my actions. I told you to run because….because we had faced those guys a few times before, and in all those earlier times, I was able to keep you safe, even when I had you run. I stayed behind and fought those fiends…then when they were all taking dirtnaps, you and I fled…together…hand in hand…” His hand, still on the gravepile, clenched into the dirt. “Last time, though….I didn’t get to you in time….I…..I PROCRASTINATED!” He screamed the last word in hated fury, sending an echo through the area. “The more we fought those guys, the angrier they made me. Their accusations, the way they continued attacking us…that last time, I just wanted them to die so bad, I…I stopped thinking about you. I took a moment to survey the group I defeated, cursing their carcasses for all they were worth, then I just meandered over to you, like I figured nothing could go wrong.”
He stopped his confession to wipe away more tears. Emotion was starting to win this personal fight. “I saw you held up by that guy in yellow. I saw how he wounded you. My heart froze, as I realized my common mistake led to what happened. To this day, deep down inside….” He pulled his hand from the grave and held it over his fast-beating heart. “Deep down inside, I’ve never forgiven myself for what I did. To be honest, I’m not sure you’ve even forgiven me, even though you gave me one more kiss in the end…” His voice started to break, even as he struggled through his words. “That was the only kiss you gave me after I lost my mouth….I hated that kiss, but not because of you. It was only that….that I couldn’t return it. I probably deserve it, though. I was too late to save you, and I have no one to blame but me.”
More tears came. The lump returned to his throat. Eventually, Damien couldn’t stand it anymore and threw himself on the ground before the grave. He wept openly, harsh breathing coming from his mask. “CLAIRE!” he shouted. “I’m so sorry! I’m sorry for everything!” His cries echoed far into the sky, which was reddening from the setting sun.
His outpouring of anguish continued for five minutes, until he stopped suddenly. He looked around, holding his shoulder; he had just felt something touch him there. He checked in every direction, but that something was nowhere to be found. Wiping his eyes and sniffling, he got back to his feet, recomposing himself mentally. He wasn’t sure what it was that touched him, but for some reason, it made him want to stop crying. Eventually, he started to leave the grave, his head hung even lower than before. For the first time in his life, Damien felt like a broken man.
“Damien…” a feminine voice whispered through the air. The warrior’s head shot up suddenly, looking about him. As he searched for the voice, his gaze fell upon a young, blonde-haired girl, wearing a white dress. A bright light emanated from her figure. He was awestruck and in disbelief. “C…Claire?!” he asked.
The girl smiled and nodded once. A split second later, she was right in front of Damien. The swordsman nearly fell backwards from the abrupt closeness. For a moment, he was wondering if the girl had come back to life, but a closer look revealed that her form was somewhat transparent; he could see more of the construction site ahead of him. His head lowered; nothing in life could reverse death. However, he felt his head start to rise again, along with a light sense of warmth on his chin. His eyes saw the angel’s hand support his head. Immediately, he reached his own hand out to touch her face, to feel the warmth of her skin once more. But his hand merely passed through her. Once more, a few tears brimmed in his eyes. “Claire….” he whispered. “I’m sorry I abandoned you…I don’t deserve to see you again.”
The angelic female suddenly wrapped her arms around Damien, and the fighter suddenly felt the comfort of her touch throughout his entire body. “You’re wrong, Damien,” the girl’s voice echoed in his head. “You never abandoned me. You stuck with me always, no matter what, even to the very end. Even when you were late, you never failed to keep me smiling. Moreso, you were, and still are, dedicated to fighting evil.” She pulled away from him and gazed into his eyes. “Damien…my love…I am always with you, no matter what. Be the hero I know you are. Help save this world…like I know you can.” Then, just like in her final mortal moments, the angel kissed his mask softly, then faded into thin air.
Damien held his hand to where she kissed him. He felt the cool metal of his mask in response, and for a moment, he felt bitter. But then, his negativity subsided. It quickly occurred to him that no matter how obvious it was, Claire always refused to see the mask on his face. She saw him for the man he truly was. Before long, hope rose in his heart, and his determination returned. With one strong arm, he pointed his Doombringer to the sky. “Claire Lowe,” he said in a proud voice. “Today, you gave me strength when I had none, just like you always did. In return, I’ll be that hero you want me to be. Lightbringer or not, I’ll see this quest to the very end. I’ll find the one who stole your life and owe him his debt of pain. I’ll help make this world safe once more, no matter what it takes! For now, though, I must return to Perion.” He then sheathed his sword and walked onward. No longer sad, he moved towards his destination with newfound resolve burning within him. “It’s time for me to become a crusader.”
As he left the area, the angel that was Claire faded into the world next to her grave, out of his sight. She grasped at the older-looking rose, picking it up. She gently blew on the rose. Amazingly, the flower soon became brand new, just like the last one Damien left. She let it fall to the ground, then looked over to her still-living lover.
“You can do it, Damien,” she said quietly. “I’ll always be with you.” Then she disappeared once more. The air was still and quiet, as a great calm settled over the burial sight. The two roses stood tall in the grave, side by side.
Weight: 190 lbs.
Job: Fighter(going on Crusader)
Weapon of choice: Doombringer
Final Age: 20
Final Height: 5’8″
Final Weight: 140 lbs.
Final Job: Hunter
Final Level: 60
Weapon of choice: Cao Cao Bow
Night was slowly beginning to fall over Victoria Island. The areas that were usually bustling with adventurers hunting monsters were becoming less and less crowded, as some called in an early night. Even the hunting fields by Henesys, which were always crowded with eager up-and-comers looking for challenging monsters seemed fairly quiet. Many adventurers were returning to various mushroom-shaped houses dotted around the peaceful village. The calm quiet of night was settling upon Henesys as the blue sky faded to black.
One female adventurer, however, was in no mood for sleep. Standing a solid distance away from the home of Athena Pierce in the town park, she waited patiently by the fountain, which always had water in it, along with a glowing lantern post nearby. She was dressed in a white piettra top and skirt, blue pierre shoes, and aqua braces. A blue distinction sat atop her brown, wavy hair, and a Vaulter 2000 was gripped lightly in her hands. This girl, named Skye Summel, was beaming with joy deep down inside. Today, her training was officially over, which meant everyone else’s was, too. Soon, she would get to see all of her friends that she had adventured with in the past. She couldn’t help but wonder where their quest to defeat evil forces would take them next. Maybe they’d get to see another continent of the maple world. She certainly hoped so; she’d heard of these other lands, but had never gotten to see them before. The chance to see new places was aching in her head.
However, she had an even bigger longing, and it would be fulfilled tonight. According to a letter she’d gotten in the morning, her one true love was coming to see her tonight after his training was over. She was giddy with delight the entire day, the news making her even more enthused about getting her training over with than usual. Not that she didn’t mind her chance to increase her effectiveness as a bowman, but it was, to her, a lot of work, even more than before. Still, it was all worth it; she made it far into her second job as a hunter and learned plenty of interesting abilities. Tonight would be even better as she would have a chance to relax with her boyfriend, the one true love in her life.
She sat around the fountain for a half-hour before she began to see something in the darkness. It was a silhouette: she didn’t know who it was at first, but as the figure came closer to the light, she could see something long and spear-like jutting out from it. Her heart leapt. “Lance?” she called out. “Lance, is that you?”
The person came within view of the light: it was a young boy, clothed in a blue jangoon armor ensemble with blue boots of the same name and adamantium knuckles. A Zeco was gripped in his hands and a gold nordic helm was fitted on his head. Strands of blond hair poked out from underneath the helmet. The man grinned as he saw Skye.
“Lance Redford has returned,” he said happily, opening his arms.
“LANCE!” Skye blurted out before racing up to him. They caught each other in a warm embrace so fervently, as though they previously weren’t sure they’d see eachother again. The boy and girl threw off their hats and stared into eachother’s eyes. “I missed you,” Lance whispered.
“I missed you too,” Skye replied. All words were then thrown aside as the two pulled themselves into a deep, longing kiss. Their hearts raced with each passing second as their minds dwelled on the past thirty days. For an entire month they let go of their companionship so they could grow stronger individually. Despite the prior situation, no amount of training could ever block one from thinking about the other. They both knew that if they ever ended up honing their abilities for one thing, it would be for eachother. The distance that held them the previous month did sadden them, but the knowledge that they would be together at training’s end only made them work harder. Now, their reward was theirs to reap.
Eventually, they broke the kiss, then wandered over to the fountain hand in hand, sitting at its edge. “So!” Lance began heartily. “How was the training? Tell me everything.”
“Everything? Oh, Lance, c’mon!” Skye pouted. “I know I have a good memory, but I can’t remember that much!” The two laughed for a moment. “Well, what can I tell you?” Skye said after settling down. “Training for my second job is nothing like training for the first job. It was so much more involving. I had to fight monsters longer and do a lot of studying. The whole thing really keeps you on your toes.”
“Ah, tell me about it,” Lance agreed. “It was the same way for me. I suppose you had it easier, though. I mean, you have this constantly comfortable weather in Henesys. Meanwhile, I get a hot, punishing sun up in ragged mountains!”
“Oh, you!” Skye replied, slapping Lance on the back playfully. “It was too harder for me. You just have to swing a spear around. I have to aim AND buy my own ammo!” Again, the couple burst into laughter. When all was quiet again, Skye said, “Well, at least I had Moira training with me. She still likes to think the crossbow is better than the bow, but nonetheless, she’s an awesome training partner. She really helped me with a lot of things, like how to fire arrows more quickly, and how to knock back approaching monsters. If it weren’t for her, I’m not sure if I would’ve made second job.”
“I can say the same about Damien,” Lance added. “He has a rough exterior, but he’s a good guy. I actually wasn’t sure if I could learn all that much about spears from him, since he uses swords, but it turns out there was a lot we could gain from our differences. I still wish I was strong as him, though. He’ll be taking on his third job advancement tonight.”
“Wow! What a coincidence!” Skye said excitedly. “Moira’s going to be doing the same thing. She’s getting ready to go as we speak. Man, she’s so cool…” The young archer trailed off as she leaned closer to Lance. “Still, you’re far cooler, Lance.”
“Aw, thanks, hon,” Lance replied, blushing slightly. He put his arm around Skye’s shoulder. For the next few minutes, they sat together in silence. Crickets chirping in the distance were the only sound in the quiet, calm darkness.
“Lance,” Skye said eventually. “I just wanted to say thank you for being with me all this way. You’ve been a great amount of morale support for me in my training. I’m not so sure I would’ve been so into this whole adventuring thing if it weren’t for you.”
“Hey, anytime, Skye,” Lance said. Y’know, you’ve given me a lot of support, too. I mean, training’s my life, no matter what, but it’s always better when you’ve got a good friend to do it with.” He kissed her lightly on her forehead.
Skye smiled warmly upon the contact. She looked up at the spearman. “I’m so glad you’re in my life,” she whispered to him earnestly. “You’re the best thing to ever happen to me.”
Lance returned the words with a smile. “Likewise,” he said. The two then kissed once more, holding eachother close. Feelings of love, peace, and joy radiated from them. Eventually, their lips parted. “My place tonight?” Skye offered.
“Wouldn’t miss it,” Lance replied. Hands still holding, the couple headed off to the archeress’s home to enjoy the rest of the night together.
Weight: 150 lbs
Weapon of Choice: Zeco
Weight: 110 lbs.
Weapon of choice: Vaulter 2000
A fair distance from the fountain in the park, Athena Pierce’s house sat quietly, with the only light coming from the first floor. Compared to all other Henesys buildings, Athena’s home was the tallest. It could easily be seen from anywhere around the village, and was often the first building looked at by would-be bowmen. To them, Athena’s home was more than just a tall house; it was a great beacon that marked their first step into their arrow-shooting careers.
Inside the house, Moira was busily hurring around the house, making sure she had everything she needed before her third job trial, while her job master waited calmly by the front door. Athena had warned her that this test would be a very difficult one, although she didn’t tell her what exactly the test entailed. With this kind of forewarning, Moira was apt to take it seriously and to heart, though she couldn’t help but feel wary about the whole thing. Nonetheless, she was eager to give the trials a try, as she knew it would be a great testament to her power and how strong she truly was. In addition, she enjoyed learning new things: she constantly thought about what this test would teach her.
Moira had just confirmed that everything was ready to go in her pack when her eyes, one real and one mech, strayed out the window. She noticed the two adventurers, Skye and Lance, sharing a kiss, then standing up and walking away from the fountain into the darkness. At that moment, her body stopped moving around and her racing mind ground to a halt. Emotion made a quick but small entrance inside her. For that moment, as she watched them leave, her heart wrenched in private agony. Seeing those two together quickly reminded her of the times she spent with Theresa. Her eyes misted, and her lips quivered. Even with all she had experienced in her adventures, her mind still often drifted back to the days of old, when her home city stood tall and prospered in her homeworld. more often than not, she thought of the family she lost, and the friend of hers that she loved. *Theresa,* she whispered mentally.
“Like the fountain?” Athena asked, breaking the silence.
Moira whirled around. “Wha-” she began, then quickly realized that she had stopped herself from finishing her preparations. Blushing in embarassment, she grabbed her pack and started toward the door. However, the sadness remained in her eyes. Athena quickly saw this and stepped in front of the door. “Is everything okay?” she inquired. “Not worried about the trials, are we?”
“Huh?” Moira blurted out, taken aback by the questioning. “Well, no! Of course not, it’s just….” Failing to come up with something to quickly end the conversation, Moira sank into a nearby chair and buried her face in her hands. “Mistress Athena, this is probably a silly question, but have you ever lost someone so dear to you that you couldn’t stop thinking about them? I dream of this person every night, and it’s always followed by the reality that I’ll never see her again.” She wiped her eyes in frustration. “Oh, listen to me! The trials are upon us and I’m acting like dead weight!” She was about to get out of her chair, but Athena halted her with a hand, then sat down in another chair.
“Moira, first of all, you can just call me Athena,” the job master explained. “I don’t want you to feel like I’m lording over you or anything, because I’m not. Besides, you’re training is almost over. Second, yes, I have, many times to be honest. My family of course; in fact, all of us job masters are the last of our bloodline. In addition, though, there’ve been many students I instructed whose lives and dreams were cut short at some point. I grieve for all of those bowmen who’ve died in the past; this may sound odd, but every student I teach…well, they sort of become my children in a way. Not literally, of course, but it comes from the fact that I always work to ensure that they become the best archers they can be. I think of every person who wields a bow or crossbow as children that I have raised in a way, be they alive or not. I think of them that way because they come to me to learn my ways of combat, and I always take time out of my life to help them go farther in their dreams. It’s my job, after all, and it’s a job that I love and live for.
“As for losing someone I love, well…” Athena took a moment to choose her words as she leaned back in her chair. “Believe it or not, I get a spiritual connection with the initiates that I take under my wing, so I can feel their prescense for as long as they live. It’s a tiny feeling, but it’s still there. I know it is because eventually, that feeling disappears, which tells me that that bowman has just died somehow. No matter how it happens, it always saddens me somewhat to feel the fire of a bowman get snuffed out inside me. I feel like I’ve lost one of the many children I’ve taken the time to help raise. However, I always find the strength to go on.”
“What strength is that, Athena?” Moira asked.
“That strength is the fact that for someone I lose, there will always be a new adventurer-in-training who wishes to learn from me. It always brightens my day to see a young boy or girl come to my desk upstairs one day and tell me that he or she wants to be a bowman. In short,” Athena leaned a bit closer to Moira, “the thing you should always remember is that even if you lose someone you love dear to you, you’ve always got a chance to find someone else. Whoever that someone is, you’ll never truly know until you meet him or her, but you should never lose hope. I feel that before long, Moira, you just might find that special someone for you. I know you will; you’re an excellent student to teach.”
“Thank you for your confidence,” Moira said graciously. “Still, this is a new world to me, and it’s people seem very different from me. I’m just not sure it’ll be that easy to find someone.”
Athena stood up. “I know nothing of the world you’re from, so it may be true that the people from your world are different from the people here somehow. Still, take heart. I’ve learned quite a lot about you, Moira, and I can honestly say that you aren’t too different from a typical maple worlder. In any case, whether it’s training or searching for someone to be with, you should never lose hope. If you stick with it long enough, you just might reach your goal.”
“I won’t forget that, Athena.” Moira stood up and offered her job master a quick hug, which was accepted. Thank you for everything.”
“Anytime, my child,” Athena said with a smile. “I’ll be heading off to the training sight. You remember where it is, right?”
“Beneath Sleepywood in the forest dungeon,” Moira confirmed. Athena nodded approvingly before heading out the door. Athena took a few minutes to go over herself; her new clothes, a dark lineros suit, fit comfortably, as did her dark elf shoes and dark eye gloves. She brushed a hand through her long, straight, blond hair that draped down to her waist. She checked over her crossbow, its jeweled surface shimmering from the light of the fireplace. “I think I’ll call you…Theresa’s Redemption,” she said to the crossbow with a smile. “The Redeemer for short, perhaps.” With everything in tow, she stepped out of the house and headed toward her trial and her destiny.
*My dearest Theresa, my loving family,* Moira thought as she walked. *I’ll defeat this evil…for you.*
Weight: 155 lbs.
Job: Sentinel(Sniper equivalent)
Weapon of choice: Her crossbow, known as Theresa’s Redemption(aka the Redeemer)
Not long after Moira’s departure from Henesys, the sky became entirely black; night had made its full prescense known upon the maple world. The majority of the island had now fallen asleep, the adventurers dreaming of the quests they would undertake the next day. Not all were asleep, however.
Like Damien and Moira, Shadow was also assigned a trial to take on. Also like the others, very little about the test was told to him; all he knew was that it would be a very difficult challenge that would take everything he’s learned so far. After the trial was explained, Shadow set out on his own, into the swamps not far from the city by way of a secret passage in the town square.
The swamps were a stark contrast to the city of Kerning. Instead of concrete and buildings, Shadows eyes met an endless sea of swampland, with rotted leaves and tall, lanky, odd-shaped trees surrounding the tarnished grasslands. Ropes dangled from some of the tree branches. Ligators and crocos crawled about many of the swamp trees and vines, while the swamp floor was dotted with jr. neckis. Shadow eyed the monsters as he trudged through the swamps, his daggers at the ready. *Well, at least getting to this cave Dark Lord mentioned won’t be difficult,* the bandit mused to himself.
Indeed it wasn’t, for after much climbing and monster killing, which included lupins as he got closer, Shadow eventually reached a corner of the swamp where a fabric of the world had been torn open, leading to a dark hole. “This must be it,” Shadow surmised aloud. “The Door of Dimension. Nowhere to go but in.”
Before he stepped through the door, Shadow took one last look at the swamplands around him, and thought of the rest of Victoria Island around the swamps. He couldn’t help but get the feeling inside him that he simply had to complete this test successfully. If he failed, not only would his training remain incomplete, but there was probably a chance he wouldn’t come back out of that cave.
He shook the thought away. He would win this challenge. He would succeed and then reunite with all the friends he’d made.
Then he remembered something the Crow had given him before he left. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small, silver kunia, Crow’s lucky charm.
Shadow smiled, then repocketed the gift. *I’ll win this battle, Crow,* he promised mentally. *Then, we’ll get back with the others and win the war.*
*laughs* Told you I’d get it done! Thus begins the next part of my series, which’ll take place mostly in Orbis. Those who submitted character subs, take heart: you haven’t been forgotten! In the meantime, enjoy the story that took darn near three months to complete! Oh, and before I forget…..mountain dew for everyone! Man oh man, it’s great to be back!^_^
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