Savannah wanted to believe she had dreamt of the encounter with Plutarch. This may have been possible if not for the acute recollection of the smoke in the cave, the weightlessness of space, and landing face-first on the sand. She felt her neck, to confirm again that the once-mortal wound was now not even a scar.
As she walked through Silivia's Metro District, something caught her eye: a storefront, with rows of televisions on display. Each showed an overhead view of a bridge reduced to smoldering rubble. Savannah read the scrolling caption: "-emilia Corporation facility near Port City destroyed."
A newscaster read off a list of names, the suspected perpetrators of the attack. Lee-something, a scientist. Blossom Cane, his assistant. Those names meant nothing to her, but upon hearing "Marshall Rooke," she froze.
Within the shop, a young dark-skinned man was examining a radio, aiming to replace his broken one. He heard "Atticus Anoeth-" and quickly turned his head. Anoethite? He put the radio down and walked outside. His eyes somewhat widened as he soaked in the broadcast. He turned to Savannah dead in the eye. "You look concerned. Don't mind me asking, but are you related to this in any way?"
"No, I — I uh," Savannah stammered. "I think I recognize some of those names. Marshall, Atticus — didn't know them that well and not for very long." She pointed at the screen. "I don't know anything about that."
He looked down. "Atticus was a very close friend of mine. He ran off a couple months ago, and I thought he'd died from his decisions," he declared, turning back to her. "Do tell... how do you know him?"
"I was taking shelter from a storm in an old barn when I found him, this girl Melissa and an android called Chris. None of them had any memories beside their names, though Chris said his 'father' left him there." She could be honest about that, at least.
"Interesting," Jordan replied, smiling slightly. "Well, I've known him since we were twelve, and now that I know he's alive — I'm going to find him."
It was a mostly quiet evening, only the faint sound of traffic was heard on the streets of Silivia. Richard Devlin placed his van in park and through the entrance of Plant Empire before stopping at the sight of two Halan men. One he recognized — Da Chang from the Harvest Moon feast — and the other an older man gripping an oak cane, both standing behind a counter.
Da noticed Richard, interrupting the two's conversation. "—fine. Oh, Richard? What do you need?"
Da hurried from behind the wooden counter and quickly grabbed the vase back.
"That is an antique. I, nor Yu, did not let Wen do anything. We didn't know of the situation until this evening, I'm afraid."
"What do you m—"
Mid-sentence, a tall, stubbly black-haired man in a soggy maroon suit burst through the entryway of the shop. He aimed a carbine at the older man still behind the counter.
"Where is Wen Li?! I need to give him a piece of my mind!"
"Shen, duck! Richard, get back there! Da yelled out, pushing Richard behind him while he ran to the wall, pulling a miaodao down. Shen sat down and Richard dove behind the counter, injuring his ankle.
"How often does this happen?!" Richard panicked.
"I do not live here. Likely pretty often," Shen responded, calmly, as he began meditating.
Da knocked the firearm to the floor and, in the process, disfigured the sword.
"What the hell is it with you Halans?" The man shouted as he unsheathed a knife. Da defensively dropped the defective miaodao and reached behind him, taking a platter. He tried blocking the madman's attacks, but the attacker suddenly ceased, letting the knife hit the floor. He grabbed Da by the underarms and shoved him against the counter. The counter began to shake. Richard, moments before, had got up to see what had happened, but Shen was not so lucky. It toppled over, striking the older man. Richard, acting in the moment, tossed the desk over instantly and grabbed Shen's arms, pulling the old man towards him.
Hurrying down the wooden staircase, Yu, a skillet in hand, came out to see what had occurred. Upon seeing the assailant, an abrupt blow to the attacker's head dented the skillet and left him stumbling out of the shop leaving a trail of blood. Da slid to the floor, exhausted. He mouthed "Shen" to Yu, who checked behind the counter. She kneeled down to Shen's level, Richard already bent over him. The man's vision blurred as the last thing he saw was the outline of a man and a woman.
One by one, the group filed into the manor. Even in the morning light, the place was certainly not one to feel relaxed in. Furniture remained knocked over, piles of trash littered the walkway, and the only light shined in through cracks in the dirtied windows.
"How much longer are we going to stay in this dump?" Marshall whined as he and Atticus lifted a large chandelier off the dining room table and placed it on the ground, per orders of Samuel.
"Yeah, what's the plan for us? Where are we even going to get food from?" Atticus asked, rubbing his palms together in an attempt to clear dirt off them.
"Get moving as soon as possible," Samuel spoke up. "There's nothing left here and the snow doesn't look like its stopping. This continent is a dangerous place, and we can't stay here. We need to head to the northern coast and get on the Smithson-Reed Ferry. It will take us to Aiola."
"Um, what is Muné like generally? And if this place is so bad, why did we fly here?" Blossom asked, wheeling herself near Samuel.
"You really wanna know?" he said. "This place is agreed to be one of the most war-torn continents on Euclid. Its absolutely littered with demon and angel settlements. I'm sure there are some places that are fine. We came here to avoid suspicion. Going straight to Aiola would be an obvious route, but no one would think of us coming here and then traveling there."
"This is a nice boring chat and all, but I'm getting hungry," Marshall interrupted, faking a yawn.
Melissa spoke up, her voice still meek but calmed and steady. "I think there's some food in the cellar." She stood and walked to the staircase, holding the loose and rickety banister as she walked downstairs and into the manor's depths.
Melissa took notice of the area's features. The basement extended further down than she'd thought, it was very likely that nobody upstairs would be able to hear her. She dropped to a sitting position on the damp wooden floor and buried her face in her hands. For a few moments, she was alone in silence, silence remaining unbroken until one hand wrapped itself around her throat and another covered her mouth. Not even attempting to scream, Melissa opted to faint and allow the basement to fade to black.
After some time had passed and Melissa did not return, members of the group began to feel restless.
"Should somebody go after Melissa?" Chris asked, feeling visibly concerned for her.
"She is likely taking a few extra cans of fruit. Let's just leave her be. The worst that is down there are durables, I am sure," Li told Chris.
"Durables?" Marshall asked.
Li bent down, gripping his cane, and picked up a durable from its parade. "This is a durable. Tiny, purple beetles that march together foraging for food. They cannot die and this one is likely thousands of years old. They're essentially harmless, too. Part of the nicer side of Muné."
"Marshall, go check on Melissa," Atticus ordered, bending down on one knee and clearing debris from around the table better.
"No, I don't think I will," Marshall refused. "Didn't you just hear Li? She's fine."
Through the wooden walls to the wilderness, the unmistakable sound of a pistol firing was heard. With no time to prepare, Atticus attempted to jump backwards as bullets ravaged the wall and shot through. For a second everything seemed fine, and nobody had been hit. All of the bullets had managed to embed themselves in a decaying support beam, one which had become severed by the attack. Again, almost instantly, the roof began to come down.
When the dust settled, the group discovered a wall of wreckage separating them. Half found the front door was now blocked off, the others similarly stuck. No one considered going outside with the gunman still at-large.
Samuel, now alone with Li and Atticus, wanted to question what exactly happened. But he had to think quickly. "We need to get out of here," he frantically spoke out. "We're gonna get cornered if just keep standing around. Come on!" After glancing around the room, he began to run for a nearby doorway.
"Bullets! Go! Run! Now!" Li advised, following behind Samuel.
"Where did the others go?!" Atticus yelled out as the two men began to sprint away. "What if they're under this debris? We can't leave yet!"
"It's not safe!" Samuel shouted as the two continued onward. With little option left, Atticus sprinted after them.
The group was careful to avoid the manor's large windows as they ran, fearful of more shots firing. Soon, Samuel led them to a dusty kitchen, wilted lilies sprawled on the old ceramic tile.
Li scanned the room for items. On the wall, he spotted some rusted pots and saucepans. He grabbed a saucepan and a wooden spoon and handed them to Atticus and Samuel and took them into a bigger room: an old art gallery and statue room.
They steadily walked inside the room, their steps occasionally pushing pieces of aged floorboard downward. Samuel noted the room's lack of windows. "This might be the safest place to regroup," he said.
A second of awareness washed over Samuel, Li, and Atticus. They had barely a second to react to the floorboards pushing down under another pair of feet. The sound of a creak rang out before a shadowy assailant jumped at Samuel, light glinting off of a knife as it revealed itself in the attacker's hand.
Samuel felt his jagged-edged spoon slip out of his grip as he was shoved to the floor. Now without a weapon, he readied himself to evade the figure's strikes as they quickly rushed towards him.
Pulling out his gun from his right side, Atticus attempted to fire at the being, only to realize that he was out of ammunition. The adversary spun himself around Samuel, wrapping one arm around his neck from behind and aiming a knife at the others. Samuel buried his chin into the assailant's bent elbow to protect his throat. With one hand, he tried to free himself from their grip, and with his arm, he attempted to elbow the figure in their stomach.
Thinking quickly, Li pushed a heavy, hand-chiseled statue over onto the assailant, only slightly hitting Samuel's leg and hip. Li went over to Samuel and pulled him up.
The sound of the statue hitting the cold floor simply left uncertainty. Nobody was crushed underneath, in fact, there was no trace of any attacker.
"Where did they go? Did anyone see where they went?" Atticus asked, quickly glancing all around the room.
"Let's just keep moving," Samuel told Atticus through slow, heavy breaths. "That doesn't matter, just focus on getting out of here."
Unsure of how to proceed, Atticus nodded, heeding the older man's advice. "Let's continue then, keep an eye out for that person though. And be alert, they might have done something to Melissa."
A glint of light came from the shadowed corners of the room, and for a moment Atticus caught a glimpse of his attacker. Sunglasses, a leather jacket, and various small buckles and straps throughout his outfit. Apart from his questionable fashion choices, this person seemed completely human.
The massive knife that had been used to hold Samuel hostage had now slipped across Atticus' face, leaving a nasty cut from cheek to cheek across his nose. The figure skidded to a halt, turning around as a glass object made contact with his face.
Samuel kept his distance as he held a wooden stick behind him, his other hand held up to defend himself.
"We're destroying priceless artwork that has likely been in your lineage for generations, Samuel. Perhaps be a little more careful," Li said, picking up his cane.
The environment around Atticus shifted and swirled into a silhouetted simulacrum, as he slipped into another vision. Every shadow of the room illuminated itself as he saw a creature slither underneath the floor and through them. The serpentine figure emerged in the corner of the room, next to a large statue of a knight.
Returning to reality, Atticus leaped forward to the statue, grabbing the knight's sword, and pointing it at the darkness beneath it. Taking a deep breath to prepare himself and as blood poured down his face and onto his body, he closed his eyes and plunged the blade forward, making contact with flesh.
The assailant's mouth, as he emerged from the shadows, was lodged open both by the sword and by shock as it stuck through the back of his throat. His glasses fell as he writhed in pain, revealing no human's eyes, but a pair of black, round orbs devoid of color.
Li and Samuel were taken aback after witnessing what had happened. Samuel placed one hand on his knee, taking a breath and letting off his shock. "Well," he said after a brief silence. "Guess that's been taken care of. But still, we need to try and get out of here quickly. Come on." Li nodded at Samuel and walked over to him.
Atticus let go of the blade's handle. After taking a sharp breath, he turned around and followed behind the other two.
Kicking at the pile of rubble in front of him, Marshall resorted to the only tactic he had left.
"Damn it, damn it! Why does this always happen to us?! First, we run out of fuel and we're stuck in this dump, then we have no food, and now we can't even leave because some bastard is shooting at us!"
"Calm down," Blossom snapped, surveying the area. "It seems like the front door is blocked by all of this. I figure the others are either stuck under this or on the other side. Getting angry isn't going to help the situation."
"Maybe I could calm down if I wasn't stuck with wheelchair girl and robot boy," Marshall snapped, kicking at the pile again.
"That attitude is extremely unnecessary, Marshall," Chris commented.
"Shut it, tin man. I'm getting out of here. Come on!" Marshall yelled, running to a nearby room that contained a pool table and billiard balls.
Chris was about to follow Marshall, but turned to Blossom instead. "Do you think Marshall is being unreasonable?" Chris glanced towards the other room with one eye as he awaited Blossom's response.
"Isn't he always?" Blossom remarked, as she began to wheel herself into the next room. "But we don't have time to just sit here, we could be shot at again. Come on."
"Oh, fuck you," Marshall groaned as he grabbed Chris' wrist and pulled him into the room. "Now, be quiet and be aware of the shit around you. Take these." Marshall took two billiard cues off of a rack and handed them to the two.
Chris grabbed the cue as he looked around at the room Marshall had pulled him into. It had trophies, plaques, records, and a guitar. While Chris would have liked to check it out, he understood more pressing matters were at hand and continued onwards.
"Where are you even taking us, Marshall?" Blossom asked, having slight trouble in keeping up with the boys. "Shouldn't we try to find our way outside of here?"
"What do you think I've been doing?" Marshall said as he walked through a vestibule decorated with a Halan vase into the next room over. He quietly motioned for the others to follow. Manuals, recipe books, novels, calendars, and the like filled the shelves. "Mr. Li or Sam would love this place."
He pulled a rusty cart of decaying literature that blocked the entryway to the next room out of the way. "Hope they're doing alright," he muttered under his breath.
"Maybe we'll get lucky and find an escape route," Chris said as the three of them left the library, which Chris had to admit, he was somewhat upset about leaving. "You know, as opposed to continuously running from room to room when we can't even hear the gunshots anymore." This next room contained a desk and chair, but was mostly barren and dimly-lit.
Blossom shivered, dust filled every crevice of the room as if nothing had touched the space in ages. A decorated door caught her eye, a wreath hanging on it. "Maybe this is a way out...?" she grunted as she rolled herself over to the door. Before she could open it, Marshall stopped her.
"It might not be another antechamber. Wait a second." He yanked at his holster and pulled out his pistol, preparing himself for whatever lied behind the door. "Now go," he told her.
Blossom hesitantly followed Marshall's orders and opened the door. It revealed itself to be nothing more than a portico and brick patio, with a nearby shed that sat on the wrought iron fence. The area was silent except for the sounds of birds chirping. Moving past the girl, Marshall stepped outside and looked around. It was clear. Nothing more than gardening tools, a hose, and a rusted wheelbarrow. Remains of a garden hung on lattices and in raised boxes.
"There's nothing here. They left," Marshall said, surprised.
"Now that we're out here, we should stay together," Blossom replied. "No telling where the attacker went or if they'll come back."
Hidden from the trio's view, a young man sat on the ground, his gun and backpack placed near him as he ate his breakfast: a simple energy bar. Hearing voices, the man instantly dropped his food, quickly grabbing hold of his gun.
After the three managed to find their way out of the mansion, a small reunion was held. As each group recounted their time apart, they learned of an assassin slain by Atticus and of an assistant who fled after being confronted by Marshall and Chris.
As the group prepared to leave the manor and explore more of the environment around them, Li suddenly remembered something they had forgotten.
"Melissa must be getting every can of fruit down there. I'll go check on her and see if she needs any assistance," the old man said as he got up from the porch bench and traveled back through the kitchen, marching towards the entrance of the cellar.
Walking down the damp steps once there, Li tried to maintain his balance as he gripped his cane and the moldy banister. Mildew lined the wall. The stairs fell into darkness, and he began feeling his way down. Upon reaching the bottom, a thin chain collided with his face to which he pulled and a single dim light turned on. In front of him, two cabinets of wine stood tall, with Melissa bound by rope next to them. He ran over to her, muffled screams of help filled the room. Before long, he had untied her and they began walking back up the stairs.
"Where were you?! I thought he was going to kill me!" she asked, both frustrated and relieved.
"We just were exploring the place," he responded, smiling.
|Season One:||Awakening • White Room • Bare Trees • One Night in Gladea • Divided we Fall • Hide & Seek • Exit Music • Reunion • In Somnis Veritas • Carpe Diem • Ticking Clock • Primo Victoria (Part I • Part II)|
|Season Two:||Until Dawn • Roaming King • Safe Haven • Silver Lights • Marked Map • The Less I Know the Better|