Shining Fantasy: Chapter 12

Lauren squeezed Achilles tightly as Diana squeezed Palacio tightly. Dangling from the parachutes, the four sighed in relief, slowly descending towards the clouds below them.
“Wow! That was insane!” Diana shouted, “What a rush!”
“I wouldn’t… get too… comfortable!” Lauren gasped, squeezing Achilles tighter, cutting off his air.

He quickly started smacking Lauren’s arm, hinting to release her grip around his neck. Taking the hint, she released it. Suddenly, a flash sparked from above them. As the four looked up, they gasped in horror as they watched parts of Raven detach from the glowing center.
“What… What’s going on…? Achilles asked.
“What…?” Lauren gasped, “That wasn’t supposed to happen…”

Both Palacio and Diana glared at Lauren with disbelief.
“After Infinite tower and the Eastern Province launched… the other three were supposed to stay behind… But they’re launching…” Lauren gasped, “Those sectors weren’t prepared for space travel… Every single person on those provinces is going to die…”
“No way…” Achilles gasped.
“No… my… my people…” Diana sighed, burying her face into Palacio’s shoulder, “I thought they may have a chance… even after the invasion but…”
“I can’t think of a worse way to die… eaten or killed by demons… or by the emptiness of space…” Lauren said.
“My god…” Achilles gasped, watching the provinces, “Where are they going??”

The three watched as the three provinces accelerated away from the core, flying wildly into space. Before they could look away, there was a blinding light that emitted from the core. While Achilles, Lauren, and Diana looked away, Palacio kept looking at it, fascinated by the light. Following a loud crackle of thunder, they all jumped, and looked back towards the core.
“What…?” Diana gasped.

Suddenly, a large white and purple line flew from where the core once sat followed by large chunks of rock and debris. The four watched in horror as the shockwave quickly approached them.
“No no!!! I don’t want to die like this!” Lauren shouted, squeezing Achilles again.
“Quick! Let’s go!” Achilles shouted, grabbing hold of the strings of the parachute.

Pulling them, the parachute then started to collapse, sending Lauren and Achilles in almost a free fall.
“Go, Palacio!!” Diana shouted.
“I… can’t see… What I’m doing…” Palacio sighed, looking downwards.

Looking back at the fast approaching shockwave, Diana wrapped her legs around Palacio’s midsection tightly, grabbed hold of the strings, and pulled them to collapse the parachute. From the velocity of the fall, Achilles was unable to look up; as was the others. Even though they were in a freefall, they all could hear a loud screeching above them over the wind blowing past their ears. Achilles closed his eyes, and let out a deep sigh as the wind took his breath away. As he slowly slipped into unconsciousness, he struggled to keep his grip on the strings of the parachute.
“One hell of a way to die…” Achilles thought in his head, “Just yesterday… I was enjoying my easy life as a sandwich maker… No worries or cares in the world… I gave up the fighting and crazy life of an Agent to live peacefully. If I knew this would happen… I would have taken a ship to Motavian a long time ago… And avoided all this garbage… I never wanted this… And now here I am… with a team of my own. Maybe destiny has things laid out for me that I didn’t see before… But it doesn’t matter… The force of this shockwave will crush us…”

Feeling pressure on his rib cage, Achilles started breathing heavy.
“What is that…?” Achilles thought in his head, “Lauren…?”

Suddenly, Achilles opened his eyes, and took a deep breath, realizing the winds on the edge of the shockwave had sucked them in it. Feeling the incredible force of the shockwave pushing on his body sent him into a panic. Feeling Lauren’s grip even tighter than before, he reached for the strings of the parachute. Thinking fast, he pulled them in again, and kept pulling until the chute itself was in his hands. With the tilt of the parachute, it slung the two straight into the air, pulling them from the shockwave. Only a second passed before Achilles saw something from the left of his eye. He looked over and gasped in horror as he saw Palacio and Diana free falling with their parachute destroyed.
“Achilles…!” Lauren cried, looking upwards.
“… Yeah…?” Achilles replied, shocked that Diana and Palacio were falling to their deaths.
“What’s that big golden ring?”

Looking up, Achilles and Lauren starred at the golden ring, puzzled.
“Isn’t… that where Raven used to be?” Lauren asked.
“I… I don’t know what that is…” Achilles replied.

Suddenly, the ring started to rotate at a high rate of speed. It rotated so fast, it almost looked like a golden sphere. It only spun for a few seconds, before exploding. The ring shattered into hundreds of pieces. Only seconds more passed, before the fragments of the ring scattered across the sky. One of the golden fragments darted right past the two, with an eerie noise emitting from the golden fragment.
“Holy shit…!” Achilles shouted, angling the parachute, “We need to get out of the sky!”

Before he could react, one of the golden shards punctured the parachute, sending the two plummeting towards the ground. Achilles quickly turned around, and grasped Lauren tightly, burying his face into her shoulder, as she did him. Uttering no kind of screams, or showing much fear, the two held each other as tight as they could.
“I didn’t think we would die like this…” Lauren uttered.
“Me… Either…” Achilles cried.

All of a sudden, they felt their descent stop completely. The two impacted a hard-like surface, and fell onto their backs. Stunned from the fall, they starred into the sky, only to see more of the fragments of the yellow ring. Taking only a second, Achilles turned his head, and looked below him to see a vehicle with several people inside. One of the people held their hand out, emitting a purple light that surrounded both him and Lauren. Unable to comprehend what was going on, he lay back down, and closed his eyes.

As he closed his eyes, she stood in a room where he was standing on a white cloud. Beyond the cloud, and all around was nothing but a crystal clear; blue sky. Wiping his face, he tried to make sense of what was going on. As he opened his eyes again, Lauren lay in front of him. He rushed to her aid, kneeling by her side, and shaking her slightly. A soft moan came from her as he shook her, letting him sigh in relief.
“Achilles…” A female voice echoed.

Startled, Achilles jumped to his feet, and pulled out his saber. Holding it to his side, he started looking around.
“Who’s there…?” Achilles asked.
“Calm yourself…” The female voice echoed.

Hearing her voice calmed Achilles, soothing his worry. Turning off his saber, he put it away and went back to tending to Lauren.
“Clam yourself, Achilles… Lauren is fine… She’s resting from all the excitement.” The voice echoed.
“Who are you…? What are you doing to us…?” Achilles asked.
“I am Bri… I’m contacting you telepathically through a Mystic…” Bri said.
“Where… are we?” Achilles asked, looking around, “Is this heaven? Are we dead?”

Bri chuckled.
“No, little one. You’re not dead. You and your friends are fine…” Bri giggled.

Achilles jumped to his feet again, excited.
“You mean… Diana and Palacio…” Achilles asked, holding in his excitement.
“They were beaten up pretty badly, but they’re fine as well.” Bri answered warmly.
“Thank heavens!” Achilles cheered, “So… why am I here?”
“This is… what’s referred to in your language as a conscious. I don’t have long… We will be separated soon.  I have an important task for you…” Bri asked.

Suddenly, a mist gathered in front of Achilles. From the mist, a woman dressed white garments, with a white mask covering all but her mouth, walked from it. She wore a long white dress, with a veil draped over her face. Also, she hovered off the floor, not allowing her feet or gown to touch the ground.
“You… What are you…?” Achilles asked.
“My task… Retrieve your friends… and go to Devil’s tower far south of where you shall wake up. There… You will learn the truth… Seek 15 shards of the Planetary Ring that shattered… and unlock the forbidden secrets…  Learn the truth… no matter what the cost…” Bri responded, coming within touching distance of Achilles.
“What…? No… No, I can’t.” Achilles sighed, turning away from Bri, “This is agency work, Bri. I can’t be trusted to lead anyone… Not to mention fight for some righteous cause.”
“But you must… Not as an Agent of Raven… but for humanity…” Bri explained.
“No! I said no!” Achilles shouted, turning towards Bri aggressively, “I never wanted this kind of responsibility!”

Bri reached towards Achilles as he stood firm towards her.
“Would Alicia say the same?” Bri asked.

Achilles took a step back, instantly tearing up at the name. He took his sleeve and quickly wiped his face.
“Alicia loved you, Achilles… She told you that day… you shouldn’t run from your destiny…” Bri explained warmly.
“How…” Achilles sobbed, constantly wiping tears from his face.
“I can see past… present… and future… Alicia loved your passion for adventure, Achilles. On that field, where she died, She told you…” Bri started explaining.

Achilles became very aggressive, lunging forward, pushing Bri to the ground.
“I don’t need some cosmic ghost repeating what happened that day. That day changed my life, and my outlook on everything. I told you no. I refuse to partake in some crazy adventure that could get me killed. I swore, on that day… I would hang up my weapons… and never again be a soldier. Whether it is humanity, or the Agency… or anything… I would… Never…” Achilles explained, pointing at Bri.

All of a sudden, the scenery around the area changed. Achilles reached for Lauren’s body as it disappeared with the scenery. What appeared made Achilles sweat, and fall to his knees. Grasping the flowers on the ground, he pushed his body forward, letting his face hit the ground. The area turned into a meadow sunset, with a clear sky.
“Why… would you bring me here…?” Achilles asked.
“It’s our meeting spot, silly!” A familiar voice giggled.

Hearing the woman’s voice, he jumped to his feet, and turned to the direction of the voice. What greeted him threw him off his guard, making him stumble backwards in shock. Standing about 5 foot even, a woman with tannish skin, long white hair, starry purple eyes stood before him. Wearing a velvet dress that stretched to her shins, she had black sandals on, showing off her body and her knees to an extent. Her hair had a bow in it, allowing her hair to flow perfectly down her back.
“Alicia…?” Achilles gasped.
“Why are you acting so strange, crazy?” Alicia giggled, skipping towards Achilles.
“Bri! Is this one of your tricks?” Achilles shouted towards the sky.

Behind him he heard Bri.
“No… This is Alicia as she is today…” Bri replied.

Achilles turned his head behind him, only to see a tree in the background glowing from the sunset. Turning back, he saw Alicia standing almost against his body.
“Somebody’s acting crazy, I see!” Alicia smiled.
“I almost… can’t… believe you’re here.” Achilles smiled, gazing over Alicia.
“Huh? You’re… acting weird. What’s wrong…?” Alicia asked.

Without giving her a straight answer, Achilles dashed forward, clutching Alicia in his arms, and fell to his knees. Burying his face into her shoulder, he started to cry, and whimper like a three year old.
“Achilles…? Is there something bothering you…?” Alicia asked.

He didn’t answer her again. Feeling her breath from her face filled Achilles with both sorrow, and happiness. With each breath she took, it seemed to empower Achilles to embrace her tighter.
“Okay! That’s enough!” Alicia shouted, shoving herself off of Achilles, “Are you trying to break little ole’ me? What is it??”

Achilles looked towards the ground, then back at Alicia,
“You… You’re dead… You died in my arms in this very field…”
“Huh…? Dead…? How can I be dead if I’m standing right here?” Alicia questioned, crossing her arms.
“I… don’t know…  I was arguing with a cosmic ghost just a second ago… And poof… here you are… I don’t… know what… to say.” Achilles sobbed.
“Well for starters… you say hello…” Alicia responded.

Suddenly, Bri appeared from some mist behind Alicia. Thinking fast, he jumped up, grabbed hold of Alicia, and jerked her behind him.
“Stay behind me Alicia…” Achilles shouted.
“What… who…” Alicia asked.
“Alicia, my dear…” Bri responded, holding out her hands, “You reside in the spirit realm within your own conscious. Here, you live eternally. You have no memory of your death… but you died.”

Alicia gasped, releasing Achilles and taking several steps back. Placing her hand on her face, she fell to her knees.
“What…?” Alicia gasped.

Achilles turned towards Alicia, and kneeled. He placed one hand on Alicia’s arm and attempted to look her in her glossy eyes.
“You were… in this field, and were killed.” Achilles sighed.
“Achilles, I have brought you here… to understand what your destiny was.” Bri explained, “You only have a short period of time before I have to take you back to the mortal realm. Alicia, Achilles has an important task… And I need your help to convince him…”

Achilles jumped to his feet, and aggressively turned towards Bri.
“I’m not leaving!” Achilles said.
“Yes…” Alicia pouted, pulling herself up with Achilles’s clothes, “You… do whatever she wants…”

Achilles turned towards Alicia, amazed at her response.
“I… don’t want to leave you again!” Achilles shouted.
“If what this woman says is true… then it would make sense why I haven’t aged in so long… And you look older. My body feels like I haven’t seen you in forever Achilles…” Alicia pouted, looking at Achilles’s feet.

Achilles reached for Alicia’s hands and placed them inside his.
“Alicia… I… can’t leave you again.” Achilles pleaded.
“You have to, Achilles! You were supposed to make it in the ranks of the Agency…” Alicia pouted.
“I quit the Agency… And became a sandwich shop owner… Well… I was a shop owner…” Achilles sighed, looking at their hands together, “Raven exploded…”

Alicia took a step back hearing this information.
“Our home… is… gone?” Alicia gasped, starting to cough, “Everything…”
“Yes. It’s… all gone. The Infinite tower… and the Eastern Province took off prior to the detonation. I have… no idea how many survived.  Not only that… there was corruption in the Agency…  The Agency was working with the demons… for what purposes I have no idea. Shortly after the province took off, the other provinces detached from the center of Raven… and… exploded.” Achilles explained.
“… Corruption in the Agency…?” Alicia sobbed, falling to her knees, “My family was all in the Agency… And… working with demons…? I almost can’t believe it…”
“Yes… I ran into a couple people… and we escaped the carnage. We were some of the people that got to be on the Eastern Province… But upon entering Motavian’s atmosphere, we were attacked, and almost killed by some of the Agents. We escaped… and then no sooner got hit by the shockwave from Raven Exploding. And then… here I am.” Achilles explained.
“So… what are you going to do now…?” Alicia asked, looking up at Achilles.
“I… don’t know. I never wanted to fight. I fought too much as it stands now…” Achilles sighed, turning away from Alicia, “When we got here… I was going to find the closest village, or town… and set up another sandwich shop and live happily until I die so I can be with you…”
“You.. .can’t do that.” Alicia said, standing to her feet, “You are a part of this ordeal now… You can’t just turn your back on this.”

Achilles turned around, grabbing Alicia’s shoulders.
“Alicia… I can’t do this. I… don’t want to fight… Losing you took my motivation to fight…” Achilles explained, “I held you in my arms as you died… I vowed never to fight again…”
“How did I die, Achilles?” Alicia asked, placing her hand on his shoulder.
“You… You were shot in the head by a sniper. The sniper belonged to a ninja assassin group to kill Agents.” Achilles responded.

Alicia removed her hand from Achilles, and started walking backwards.
“I was assassinated…? Because you were in the agency…” Alicia pouted, looking towards the ground as she moved backwards.

Achilles turned around, facing Alicia.
“Yes… And I…” Achilles started to speak.
“And you want to give up… and walk away?” Alicia growled, stopping in her tracks, “Why would you give up everything for me like that?”
“Because I loved you, Alicia!” Achilles shouted.

Lunging forward, Alicia took her right hand, and backhanded Achilles in the face.
“Stupid idiot! I don’t ever want to hear you say that again! If you truly loved me, you wouldn’t have given up everything for some dumb shop!” Alicia shouted, “Taking a break would have been ideal… Death sucks. But giving up on everything you fought for?!”

Achilles grabbed hold of his cheek and took a step back, shocked at what she did.
“Why did you hit me??” Achilles gasped.
“You’re a fucking coward! Didn’t you think for one second I would even consider you giving up like that?? How Achilles…?” Alicia shouted, charging at Achilles with both of her fists balled up.
“I’m… sorry Alicia…!” Achilles shouted back, “It’s… so hard… watching someone you love die…”

Alicia slammed into Achilles, and started to pound on his chest relentlessly, with tears flying everywhere.
“You can’t just give up… I won’t forgive you for quitting… I just won’t! Ever…!” Alicia cried.

Achilles stood silent, trying to embrace Alicia.
“You can’t let this happen to anyone else! Please Achilles… Do what this woman is asking… Do it for me… Please? I would go with you to the ends of the earth if I could…” Alicia pleaded, looking at Achilles with her eyes beading with tears.

He stood gazing into her eyes, feeling regret.
“Alicia… I…” Achilles sighed.
“I want you to make a difference in someone’s life other than my own… It wasn’t fair for you to give up everything because of me… You were never this selfish before… Why now?” Alicia asked.
“You… told me to follow my heart… before you died…” Achilles replied with a pout.
“What… does it say now?” Alicia asked.
“It’s telling me… I…” Achilles started to speak.

From the corner of his eye, he saw a flicker of light. Within a second from seeing the flicker, he felt a jolt in his arms. Looking back at his arms, he saw Alicia with a blank stare. She felt limp, and started getting cold.
“Alicia…?” Achilles gasped.

She didn’t answer.
“Alicia…?? Are… you alright??” Achilles asked.
“Time… is up… It’s time to go back to the mortal realm.  She is now as she was in your mind…” Bri responded, appearing next to Achilles.
“ALICIA!!” Achilles shouted, tears forming at his eyes.

The moment Achilles shouted for her, everything in the area, including Alicia, faded away as if it was being blown away by the wind. Achilles fell to the floor onto his knees as the scenery changed to the room from before. Bri appeared with the scenery, hovering in front of Achilles.
“Why… did you… do that to me…?” Achilles asked, sobbing silently.
“Because… Inside you lay unlimited potential… to be such a magnificent leader… But you’re in quarrel with your own emotions. You wanted to run away… instead of accept what happened. Please accept my task… Retrieve your friends… and go to Devil’s tower far south of where you shall wake up. There… You will learn the truth… Seek 15 shards of the Planetary Ring that shattered… and unlock the forbidden secrets…  Learn the truth… no matter what the cost…”Bri explained.

Suddenly, the scenery started to fade away into darkness, along with Bri. Achilles, becoming angry, jumped to his feet in an attempt to grab Bri. Before he could touch her, she faded away, and Achilles sat in a dark room. With a crack of light opening into the room, he realized it was him opening his eyes, instead of being in a dark room. From the shock, Achilles jumped, and grabbed hold of his weapon. Turning on his saber, he held it to the side while kneeling, taking a look of his surroundings.
“UH; you can put that away…” Lauren giggled from behind.

Calming his nerves, he stood to his feet while putting away his saber. He turned around and caught glimpse of Diana, Palacio, and Lauren surrounding a campfire.
“What…? Diana…? Palacio…?” Achilles gasped as he approached them slowly.
“Look! Sleepy head is awake!” Diana shouted, jumping from the log she sat on.

Before Achilles could make any words of the situation, Diana lunged into him with open arms.
“I’m glad your dumbass is okay!” Diana smiled, squeezing him.

Releasing Achilles, Diana skipped back towards the log, and picked up a stick where a chunk of meat was roasting over the fire. While Palacio did the same, Lauren finished tying a knot on a stake that held up a tent.
“How… How did we get all this…?” Achilles asked.
“… You’ve been asleep for four days…” Lauren answered, sitting next to the tent towards the fire, “This is stuff we acquired from an abandoned vehicle across the way. We didn’t…”
“We didn’t want to carry your fat ass across miles and miles!” Diana shouted, laughing in the process.
“There was also food, but some of it was destroyed. It looked like the vehicle had a very rough landing… But whoever was inside it got away… No signs of blood or anything.” Palacio explained gazing into the fire.
“Come… Have a seat next to me!” Lauren smiled, patting the ground next to her.

Shrugging, Achilles walked over, and sat next to Lauren.
“Man… you look like a mess!” Diana giggled, flipping her meat on a stick.
“You don’t exactly look like a queen yourself…” Achilles smiled, pointing at her torn clothes.
“We’re all fucked up.” Lauren chuckled looking around.

Every person had majorly torn clothing, and scuffs on their faces as well as their exposed skin.
“This is the only blaster…” Diana sighed, pulling it from her belt, “That isn’t fried. Just my luck…”
“Same… I have a blaster that works and that’s it.” Palacio sighed, rotating his piece of meat.
“All my herbs, medicines, and my retractable staff is in top shape in my sack…” Lauren smiled, reaching for her sack hanging off her belt from the back.

Reaching for his weapons, the only weapon he possessed was the saber. He quickly checked all sides, and realized his utility belt was still intact.
“Cool! My belt is still intact!” Achilles sighed with relief.
“Here…” Lauren handed Achilles a stick with a slab of meat on it, “Here’s some food. You were out for four days… you need some food.”

Achilles grabbed hold of the stick, and looked at Lauren’s warm smile.
“Thank you…” Achilles responded back with a smile.
“So, I have a question.” Palacio asked, looking up at Achilles, “You kept chanting a name… Alicia. Who… was that?”

Hearing Alicia’s name brought Achilles to an immediate depressive state. He hunched his back, and gazed into the fire, watching his meat sizzle on the stick.
“I… Don’t like talking about it.” Achilles sighed.
“Come on! Was she a lover or something?” Diana asked, pulling her cooked meat off the fire.

Achilles glared at Diana as she started nibbling on her meat.
“She…” Achilles sighed, looking back at the fire, “I don’t know… I loved her with all my heart… but…”
“I would hope so…” Diana snickered, “When men chant my name, I have them…”
“Diana!” Lauren shouted, stomping her feet, “Continue Achilles.”
“To make a long story short; I was supposed to meet her at our favorite meeting spot. She had incredible news to tell me. Being eager excited, and above all… Stupid, I went there without watching if I was being followed. At the time, I was an agent… and they just put into play about fraternizing outside of our own race. It was law at the time… that humans couldn’t crossbreed with mystics, or angels. Well.. Alicia was part mystic and angel. One of the rarest breeds on Raven… I met her, and she started to tell me the surprise… Then, a group of renegade Agents shot her through the head… As she was starting on the surprise…” Achilles sighed.

Both Diana and Palacio gasped, almost dropping their food from their mouths.
“Oh my… that’s…” Palacio gasped.
“Achilles… No…” Diana said at the same time.
“No… it’s… it’s alright.” Achilles responded, pulling his meat from the fire, “I… never knew what the surprise was… But I do know… she… wanted me to pursue my dreams… and instead of following them… I closed up my heart… and my future… and opened up a sandwich shop.”
“Wow…”Palacio replied, ripping off some meat off the stick, “That’s unreal…”

Lauren placed one of her hands onto Achilles’s back.
“Are… you alright?” Lauren asked passionately.
“Yeah…” Achilles smiled back, “It’s okay… Trust me.”
“I’m really sorry I was so blunt…” Diana sighed, holding another chunk of meat over the fire.
“Hey, you didn’t know.” Achilles responded.
“So what’s our move now that Achilles is up?” Lauren asked everyone.
“I… think we should go… south.” Achilles answered.

The three others looked at Achilles with a puzzled look.
“Which way is that…?” They all asked if different tones.
“Well… What gadgets do we have available?” Achilles asked, taking a nibble from his meat.
“From that jacked up vehicle… mostly everything was trashed… except a sack of food, some medical supplies, and this camping kit. There was a landscape projector… but it’s seriously banged up and unreliable…” Lauren sighed.
“So… lets pick a direction and go!” Achilles smiled, putting his meat back into the fire again.
“Just… go somewhere?” Diana asked, puzzled at Achilles’s response.
“Yeah. We have no map… or guidance… so let’s go a direction… and find a town or some kind of civilization. Maybe we can get a map, and find out where we are. Then, we can decipher where to go from that.” Achilles explained.

Everyone nodded.
“Sounds like our fearless leader made a plan!” Palacio giggled.

Achilles quickly glared at Palacio, then quickly relaxed with another smile.
“Yeah…” Achilles responded, looking up towards the sky, “I… guess I did huh?”

As the night passed on, the four finished their dinner, and started to bundle up inside torn blankets and rags. Diana and Palacio snuggled comfortably inside the tent, with Lauren in the middle. Unable to spare any room, Achilles was forced to lie outside the tent. With the fire dying down, and the nighttime sky littering the sky, Achilles snuggled extra tight inside his blankets while hearing Lauren, Diana, and Palacio wrestle around to get comfortable. Hearing the three struggle and argue made Achilles giggle, as he starred into the starlit sky. Fragments of Raven drifted slowly in space, showing to slowly orbit larger chunks of debris.
“God you are fat… scoot over there!” Diana shouted, kicking towards Palacio.
“Well at least my thighs don’t wake the whole damn forest!” Palacio shouted, scuffling to move Diana.
“You two bitch more than a married couple, move your elbow!” Lauren squirmed between the two.
“Here comes the entitled queen!” Diana shouted kicking into Lauren’s side.
“Says the cherry blossom…!” Lauren shouted back.
“More than you could count!” Diana yelled, ruffling around more.
“You both are whores, stop squirming and go to sleep!” Palacio shouted.
“Shut it before you get a hard one in the loins!” Diana yelled.
“My god, fine…!” Lauren shouted.

In an instant, Lauren tumbled out of the tent, with blankets at hand.
“Hey hoe, you forgot something!” Diana shouted.

As Lauren turned back, she was hit in the face by a ragged pillow. The force threw her down onto the ground into the leaves, which alerted Achilles. He rose up, and glanced over at Lauren.
“Finally, room…!” Diana sighed with relief.
“Whoa… careful there…” Palacio laughed.
“Fucking assholes! I hope you get covered in ants!” Lauren shouted, standing up.

Shaking her body, the leaves fell from her clothes, and some off her blankets.
“Ugh… Stupid leaves…” Lauren complained.
“You… can come over here if you want.” Achilles offered, scattering some leaves next to him.

Lauren smiled at his hospitality.
“Thank… you. You don’t mind sleeping next to a girl?” Lauren giggled.

Achilles started to blush. He looked away, holding back a smile.
“No, Not at all…!” Achilles responded.

Walking over to Achilles, she laid down one of her blankets. Placing the pillow down onto the ground, she started to lay down comfortably, before pulling up a thick blanket over herself. An awkward silence fell over the two. With Achilles looking one way, Lauren looked the other.
“Uh… so… How you holding up…?” Lauren asked politely.
“What… do you mean?” Achilles responded politely.
“You were out for 4 days… What happened…?” Lauren asked.

Achilles twisted his head, looking towards Lauren.
“You were there… don’t you remember?” Achilles replied.
“Huh…?” Lauren replied, puzzled.

She also turned her head to face Achilles.
“You… were unconscious, but you were there too…” Achilles explained.
“Did you have a dream… or something?” Lauren asked.

Suddenly, Achilles had a flashback where he saw the flicker. Then Alicia’s face flashed in the back of his mind, instantly changing his tone.
“No… Not a dream…” Achilles replied with a dark tone in his voice, turning his head towards the stars.
“It was a reminder of what I promised a long time ago…”
“Alicia…?” Lauren asked, turning towards Achilles.
“Yeah…” Achilles responded quietly, “She… Nah…”

Lauren reached over with her right arm, and grabbed Achilles’s shoulder. Being startled, he turned his head towards her, and glanced at her hand.
“Tell me…” Lauren stated with a slight comfort to her voice, “You… were pretty bothered about it… It’s really bothering you… Tell me.”

Confused, Achilles starred at her with a blank look.
“Why should… I tell you? I barely know you…” Achilles responded with a snarky tone to his voice.

He nudged her hand off his shoulder while continuously starring at her.
“Just because we fell from all the way up there…” Achilles pointed to the sky for a quick second, “… doesn’t mean we’re soulmates or anything. Let me make one thing clear to you. I’m not as easy as you think I am to understand. There are many things… I only told… her… and nobody else. They died, when… she died. And I died inside. Since… that incident… I’ve tried so hard to pick up my pieces… which I did with that sandwich shop… And now all this happens. To be frank; I want out.”
“You stood against…” Lauren gasped.
“I was trying to defend myself…  Palacio was the one that made the attack…” Achilles explained.
Lauren retracted her hand, and rolled to where her back was facing Achilles. She pulled up her covers, and shriveled up. When Achilles looked over, the only thing hanging out of her blankets was her blue hair. Uttering a deep sigh, Achilles looked up into the sky, and placed his hands behind his head.
“Ugh…” Achilles sighed, “Lauren…”

She didn’t respond. Hearing his voice made her cringe a little bit more.
“You shot my best friend… and killed my friends… Max was a hilarious guy… but you point blank killed him…” Lauren sobbed.
“Palacio did that also… I merely defended me… I had to kill an agent… but that guy was farther ahead than you guys…” Achilles explained, looking over at Lauren.
“It doesn’t matter! You were involved…” Lauren shouted, spinning around to face Achilles, “I grew up with them… They were everything to me…! Yeah, I felt disgusted with what Max did to me… I wanted him to die… But after the act… when we got here… After everything slowed down… It hit me. Everyone I love is now dead…  I didn’t have anyone growing up… I was an orphan… Max, Damien and Jess were all I had…”
“Lauren…” Achilles sighed, turning towards Lauren.
“No! Listen to me! Seeing how noble you were on Raven… Confused me but… I saw… something in your words. You spoke to me… Even as I watched my friends die around me; everything you spoke… there was truth. With the direction you and your friends were taking… I thought… Wow… Maybe we would see this issue through. Maybe… some kind of save the world ordeal! But you could have fooled me… Wallow in your own self-pity if you want… Alicia, the girl you kept screaming… I bet is churning in her grave right now at you inability to move forward. I heard what you were screaming. The others turned not to listen… But I did.” Lauren explained, pointing at Achilles with fury in her eyes, “You blame yourself for Alicia’s death… and you are running from accepting what happened and moving on.”

Achilles sat up from his blanket, and gazed at Lauren with hatred.
“You would lecture me as if I’m some adolescent? Your vagabond group of friends was conspiring with demons Lauren!” Achilles shouted.
“In my eyes… You’re the demon…” Lauren sighed, snuggling in her blanket while wiping tears forming from her eyes, “Swallowing your own sorrow, and pushing yourself away from your destiny is not the way to live. One day… you’ll realize that.”

Before giving him another word to say, Lauren turned her back on him. She once again snuggled into her blankets to the point where her hair was the only thing sticking out. Having built up tons of emotions from the conversation, Achilles jumped up from the bed, and walked into the woods with only his saber attached to his side.
“Whatever… She doesn’t know what I’ve been through…” Achilles said, “I have struggles of my own. Alicia… was… everything to me…”

Walking farther and farther away from the campsite, Achilles looked up to the starts, reminiscing in its radiance. About a few minutes passed, and looking back, he saw the campsite as a glimmering glow in the distance. Reaching to his side, he grabbed his saber, and stood completely still. With a stroke, Achilles wielded his saber, and sliced in front of him. The green light from the saber lit up a tiny portion of area around him.
“I still hear your words… Alicia…” Achilles growled, holding his saber towards the ground, “I remember when you told me to… Protect what I believe in.”

Grabbing the hilt with both hands, he swiped in an upwards motion, letting his feet lift off the ground. Rotating the saber in midair, he pointed towards the ground. As he landed on his feet, he bent one knee, and drove the saber’s light into the ground.
“ But I failed that one which I swore to protect… I couldn’t do anything about it… I was so helpless… I don’t want ot be that weak again!” Achilles shouted.

Pulling the saber out of the dirt, he stood on his feet, and looked into the sky once more.
“That’s you watching me from the stars isn’t it…?” Achilles murmured to himself, “You kept… me safe coming here didn’t you? Or is it pure dumb luck…? I don’t know many people that would survive a concussion for four days…”

Following a series of swipes and skewers, Achilles grinded his teeth and attacked trees surrounding him.
“You died in my arms… and I could never forgive myself for that… There was absolutely nothing I could have done to save you… I just wish you knew how much I loved you…” Achilles explained, “I refuse to be attached to anyone else… ever again. The pain… is not worth it!”

Suddenly, from behind him, Achilles tuned 180 degrees, barely countering an attack from a shadowy figure that he couldn’t make out.
“So you would rather drown in your own self-pity.” The figure spoke, throwing Achilles back.

The force Achilles was thrown back, stunned him for a moment as he impacted a large tree.
“What… the…” Achilles gasped, falling to his hands and knees.

With his saber still in his right hand, he struggled to push himself off the ground. Before he could gain some footing, the shadowy figure kicked him in the face, throwing him up on the tree again. In an instant, the end of an object touched Achilles’s neck, forcing him to stand on his tippy toes.
“Did you not learn anything from Bri?” The figure shouted.
“Who… what…” Achilles gasped, struggling to stay on his feet.
“He who has eyes from the holy saint…” The figure began to speak.

Catching it off guard, Achilles swiped upwards towards the figure, striking its weapon. Instead of cutting through it, it was knocked away, making the figure jump into the shadows behind it.
“You must be guided back to hence where you came… Or you will suffer the same fate… She would not have wanted her death to be your undoing… She would have wanted it to empower you to defend the innocent… You have many trials ahead of you, young one… ” The figure echoed.
“Wait! How do you know that??”Achilles shouted, standing to his feet.
“Because if you are to fail… I will be collecting your soul.” The figure shouted in an eerie voice.

Achilles held his saber tightly, with a bead of sweat rolling down his face.
“Why not let me have it…? You live with such regret for Alicia… Let me take you to her…” The figure chuckled.

He started looking around into the darkness to figure out where the figure was.
“I don’t think so! Alicia would never… want me to die…” Achilles shouted back.
“But you demanded to be left alone… run from people who depend on you… Admit it, you live in despair… Just end it and come with me…” The figure laughed.

Suddenly, Achilles froze. From his back, he felt a cold touch on his back.
“You’re defending yourself… Do you realize how happy she would be if she saw you again…?” The figure chuckled.
“She…” Achilles started to say, “It… would be… nice to see…”

The figure moved back from Achilles, and uttered a loud laugh.
“That’s the spirit! Hold still now!” The figure shouted.

From the distance, Lauren jumped from the bushes, and swiped at the figure with her retractable staff.
“Get away from him!” Lauren shouted.
“Bah, silly girl. You aren’t too far off yourself… “The figure grumbled, “Achilles… Next time we meet, I will be collecting your soul.” The figure laughed.

With the laugh, the figure disappeared into the darkness without a trace.

Stunned and shaken, Achilles fell to his knees in confusion.
“What… was that? How did it know I was in a dream…?” Achilles kept asking himself.
“Achilles…?” Lauren panted, retracting her staff, “Are… you okay?”
“Lauren…” Achilles sighed with relief, “Why… are you out here?”

Lauren clutched her hands, and looked towards the ground in regret.
“I’m… sorry for what I said.” Lauren said, “I spoke way out of line and…”

Out of nowhere, to Lauren’s surprise, Achilles sheathed his saber, and with open arms, he clutched Lauren, burying his face into her shoulder. Pressing onto her with his weight, they both fell to their knees. At first, Lauren was shocked at Achilles’s actions, then placed on of her hands onto his back.
“Achilles…?” Lauren said, in a warm touched voice.
“Several years ago…” Achilles explained while sobbing, “Before I joined the Agency… I befriended a woman named Alicia. She was my best friend… We did everything together. She was there when my family died… She was there when I decided to join the Agency. She would even leave work to come see me the moment my day was over at the Agency… I would try to be there for her… but you know how the Agency stuff works… it’s never predictable. Although my time with her was amazing, we were continuously followed by The Ninjas Guild. At first, they stalked me… and the follower I was assigned. After about a couple years, they left us alone… but started stalking Alicia which scared me. From this, I dismissed my follower, and told Alicia to stay away. It wasn’t long before she asked me to meet her at the same meadow and tree where we met.”
“Oh my…” Lauren spoke.
“I remember it all… I was running up to her, and the sun was setting… It made her lovely hair glow. She sparked extra special that day…” Achilles explained, “She grabbed my hands, and brought herself to my body… and rested her chin on my chest. She explained that she was tired of running from the world, for her safety… And she wanted to take me… and flee. Run away… from everything. She was tired of the wars… Tired of the killing, and tired of the hate. But she knew I couldn’t do that… so she started to tell me she wanted to be by my side. From that day, she registered as a follower to the Agency, which thrilled me.”
“That’s amazing…” Lauren smiled.
“It didn’t last long… She looked at me, and I looked into her… she started to tell me she loved me… and suddenly, her eyes bulged, and she fell limp. From the right side of my eye, I saw a flicker. When I looked back at her… She…” Achilles started to sob again.
“She… died in your arms…?” Lauren gasped.
“Yes… Her last words… Was to follow my deepest desires… and fulfil what I thought was my destiny.  Although… it was very garbled up…” Achilles sniffed, and started to sob again.

Lauren sat in devastation as Achilles continued to squeeze harder on her body. Tears started to form at her eyes.
“So… I hunted them. Despite my orders to ignore The Ninjas Guild, I hacked into the files in the command center at the Infinite Tower… Found the location of the Guild… and disbanded them… I killed every single person in that place. All the men and women that I killed in the name of what I thought was my destiny… When it was finished, I stood in front of their leader… She looked at me with such disgust… It makes me cringe on how she looked at me…” Achilles explained, “It wasn’t fear… It wasn’t anger… Her eyes burned into my brain for all eternity… Her eyes had the look of disappointment in them. I told her that Alicia didn’t do anything to deserve an innocent death. But she stood firm in front of me, and dropped her weapons. Undoing her head dressings… come to find out it was… Alicia’s mother… I couldn’t bear what was going on, so I let my guard down. She took my weapon from me, and forced me to the ground with it. She told me that the agency was corrupted, and she would rather see her daughter die to bring even the newest of recruits to their knees. She then proceeded to tell me back then that her scouts noticed demon activity in the Infinite Tower, and one day in the future they will take over. She offered me to join her in this endeavor, to put a stop to the deal, but I didn’t buy it, and to make a long story short… I got my weapon back, and ran her through. The Agency had no idea I did it… They blamed it on gang wars… I quit, and made my sandwich shop to get away from it all… I feel empty inside for killing all those people… But I’ve put it all behind me…”
“What… do you want to do then?” Lauren asked.
“It looks like I have no choice… I guess I’ll open another shop… after we bring all of this to a close. And I want you to follow me… It’s the least I can do… for getting your friends killed…” Achilles explained, rising off her body.

Lauren looked at Achilles with tears starting to roll down her face.
“Sure… Now let’s go back to the campsite… These woods give me the creeps.” Lauren asked.
“We need some sleep before we travel… who knows how far we are from civilization…” Achilles replied.

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~ by Mateo the Wonderer on June 13, 2015.

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