Into the Fire: Rise of the Red Star By WaffleGoddess Chapter Five: Hope and Despair

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Into the Fire: Rise of the Red Star

By WaffleGoddess
Chapter Five: Hope and Despair

The world is not enough,
But it is such a perfect place to start.
And if you're strong enough,
Together, we can take the world apart.



-- Garbage


Hope and despair.

Two things that you always find in that bumpy road of life.

Hope you wish for. You hope something will happen, you hope something good will bless you, you hope for the best outcome of life and death.

But despair—you detest it. Despair is the dark thing you don’t want. Despair is what comes when hope fails you.

Hope and despair—how odd.

Despair seems to happen more than hope, doesn’t it?

Hope and despair—two things that you find in that bumpy road of life.

In one instant, hope turns to despair. And vice versa.

But the outcomes will never be reversed…never. Not ever. That is the cost of hope…and despair.

-----------------------

Cold. Hollow. Empty.

Colder than the wind that shakes the dry branches in the hazy shades of winter.

A sight so horrid. A cold, flawless act. The sight of a monster devoid of emotion.

He squinted down among the crowd, crouched on the very edge of the roof, scanning at the crowd of ignorant, bustling people, each and every person placidly strolling through the crowd, subconsciously shoving each other out of their way blissfully. The sun shone down on the city below, as it always had, from the very edges of the docks to the beaches that shone white with light. The perfect vacation spot; for many, their lifetime vacation.

Summers.

One should have felt relaxed in a city like this, but he did not. Who would, with a mission like his?

He closed his eyes, reflecting upon what had happened in less than three days—the chain of events that brought him here.

The mind wanders…the mind reflects...

-----------------------

Sir, I bring you news.”



The man knelt upon the crimson carpet rolled out before the throne, documents folded in his hands. He was not the most attractive being in the world, with devil red hair, a tiny moustache, and rapidly growing bald. His modest attire seemed to stand out in the royal chambers, his dark robes tied to his body with scarlet sashes, yet they did not cover his scar-ridden knuckles. But his appearance was perhaps the devil's bargain for his other attributes.

This man had an intelligence far beyond any other. It was an intimidating kind of intelligence, one that looked down on you and knew its own superiority, mocking your own intellect. He had come out of nowhere, meeting the Master out of nowhere, and rapidly obtained his rank, despite the mystery which almost completely shrouded his past.

"Rise, Kun," the Master said with a smile. Few things could bring humor to the Master, and Kun was one of them. There was safety in Kun - trust, honor and dignity. Something that was missing from many other people. "It is good to see you, my friend. I trust you bring good news."

I suppose I do,” Kun replied, lifting himself up to his feet. “We have managed to gather the crafts of the Kings. Soon we can begin the crowning ceremony.”



The Master chuckled, leaning back. “Good work! What day shall the celebrations begin?”

I’m not sure. Why don’t we ask your son and see what day shall be open to him?”

For an event like this, I’m sure any day will be free! But…I’ll call him anyway,” the Master said, turning in his seat. “Kai! Kai, come!”

The Master did not need to yell twice. A man, no older than eighteen, came into the room in a dignified fashion, each step resounding on the marble floors. His dark brown eyes gazed at the throne where he would soon reside on, as he would soon be the man who would make every move in Dalaam. Black bangs were combed out of his eyes, and his hair was slicked back. His queue had a red ribbon tied through, shining in the light that pooled into the room. Pale golden robes covered his body, trims of white visible in his clothing. Kai glanced at Kun for just a moment, their eyes meeting, and the two of them subconsciously nodded before glancing away.

Kai, my son,” the Master said, pride secretly welling up inside of him. “Kun has found the crafts of the Kings. Soon, we shall begin your crowning ceremony. What day is free for you?”

Any day, Master,” Kai said with a slight smile. “But tomorrow would be best.”

It is settled!” the Master said. “Tomorrow, Kai, you will become ruler of Dalaam…”



-----------------------

Kun lingered in the throne room after the Master had left. Alone, he sat.

His skill above his peers was strengthened by the fact that he was fantastic with his hands, as well as with his mind. His scarred fingers were thin and nimble, there was no tremble in his hands whatsoever, and his patience was remarkable.

He touched the stone walls with those tremble-free hands now, ran his finger across the smoothness of it.

Somebody else entered the hall, now. Kun was not surprised, as he was expecting it. Kai sat on the throne, leaning back. He began making motions with his hands, as if he were holding a sword, and muttered something that seemed to sound like “And now you die, Poo!”

"Kai.”

Kun,” Kai smirked. “I didn’t expect to see you here. What did the advisors say?”

They certainly don't like the idea," Kun said, "They're stuck on the idea of a perfect world without Giygas. Pathetic, isn't it?"

"Quite so," Kai replied, “Everything would fall into ruin if they knew what you really were. Everything we've built up to these past few years, we would be a travesty. We're entering a crucial period now, Kun. We have to take meticulous care, every step of the way. By tomorrow, you will be my advisor, and our royal tactician. In a matter of days, all our problems will be washed away. All will succeed, and we will be safe from Lord Giygas."

But you brother, sir? What if your brother does not cooperate?”

We will kill him.”

Kun stroked his chin, frowning. “I have a feeling we can put his potential to better use…than just…killing him.”

Do you have any better ideas?”



He shrugged. “I just might.”

-----------------------

The tall mountain jutted out of the edge of Dalaam, standing over even the massive palace. A long, tattered rope dangled from the edge of the mountain, used so many times that after a few more loads, the rope would finally snap. Yet it was amazing how long the rope had lasted, how long it had survived through weather, turmoil, and time.

The peak of the mountain was cold, scraping at the skies, bits of ice gathered over the dirt. No plant life could survive at the top of the mountain, and only the bare ground remained at the top. But it was from this mountain could one see the whole of Dalaam and beyond. And it was here that a person sat on top.

Poo was his name—the second son of his master. The most hair he had on his head was tied in a black queue, which dangled in the cold wind. He wore modest white clothes, and black sandals over his feet. He was no more than fifteen, but his eyes held wisdom that surpassed most people of his years. He looked down at Dalaam, which seemed tiny from his height. The golden palace faintly glimmered before being covered by a cloud that lazily drifted by. He showed no sign of the cold at the peak of this mountain, and merely stared below him.

His brother would soon be crowned ruler of Dalaam. He was proud of his brother, and impressed too—he knew Kai would be a wonderful ruler. But he was worried at the same time. Lately, Kai had been having long, quiet discussions throughout the night with a man named Kun. Poo had often talked with Kun, and saw him often throughout Dalaam, but there was something odd about the man…whether it was his superior intelligence, or something else altogether…

Poo.”



He looked up reflexively, staring at nothing. However, he knew there was something there. All he needed to do was to concentrate…

Something odd seemed to materialize before him, a wispy spirit in his mind’s eye. He could not see its distorted form, but he could still tell it was there.

I am here,” Poo responded, staring ahead.

Have you prepared for Mu?”

I’m not sure.”

Heheheh…you are never sure!”

I know,” Poo whispered, glancing away.

Enough of that…let us begin!”

Reality split apart like a stone tossed into a pond.

Poo’s eyes opened up to a dark world spread out before him. Faint flickers of light flashed here and there, sometimes for seconds, sometimes for what seemed like ages. He had no idea what he was standing on, because the absolute darkness made it impossible to see anything except for himself. It was Mu.

Then, an odd voice hissed out through the darkness, the spirit slowly crawling through the darkness, barely visible. “Poo…”

Poo looked ahead, knowing what would come ahead…

Poo…to begin the art of Mu, you must become nothing...you must learn to sacrifice everything except your own mind…you have been told this, have you not?”

You have told me before.”

Yet you have failed before…are you willing to try again, after having failed several times?”

A true warrior never backs down.”

Then we begin…first…I’ll take your arms. I’ll tear them off! I’ll tear the bones out of their sockets, rip them off the skin that holds them! Then, I’ll drop them into the ocean, where the starving minnows and the gluttonous sharks can swallow them up, caring no need for where they came from! You’ll never be able to reach out for the things you hold dear, and you will be left vulnerable and unable to defend your country! Do you wish for that, Poo? Do you want to be armless?”



Poo tensed up. “I am ready.”

Then so be it…” chuckled the spirit, before disappearing.



Suddenly, an odd shadow crawled out from the darkness, two golden eyes staring blankly at Poo. Their eyes met, and the creature suddenly sprang forward.

It tossed him on the ground, jumping on him and ripping off both of his arms in one swipe. Poo bit his tongue, not screaming, but his eyes gave away his pain. Contorted with pain, he watched his bloody arms being torn off his body, fading into darkness as the creature sunk back into its place.

The spirit appeared yet again, looking down at Poo, showing no remorse. “Poo…next…I’ll take your legs! I’ll strip them from your body, tear them apart, and rip them into tiny shreds! Then, they will be brought to a heartless butcher and served for a poor beggar’s next meal! You’ll never move on your own again, and you will merely watch as life goes by while you grow old and useless! Is that what you want, Poo? Do you want to become legless?”

Poo closed his eyes, trying to prepare for the next stage of intense pain. “Yes.”

Another shadow stood up from the nothingness, watching Poo as it crawled up to him. It leapt forward, claws ravaging through his legs, and cleaving them off in a simple movement. Where his limbs once were, there was blood dripping into nothing, and his nerves thumped dully. The pain was there though, and Poo began to cry, yet he had no arms to wipe them off. The monster didn’t seem to notice, and crawled off with his legs.

Silly child…” the spirit raspily chuckled, materializing once again. “Poo…now…I’ll take your eyes! I’ll tear them from their bleeding sockets, and throw them to the streets! The people will trod on them unknowingly, and cruel, starving crows will flock down and swallow them up! You’ll never be able to see again, and you’ll never get to witness life’s greatest joys! You won’t even be able to watch your brother accept his bloodline and become ruler of Dalaam! Is that what you wish for, Poo? Do you want to be blind?”



Poo could simply nod, his lower jaw trembling with pain and the urge to scream.

The final sight Poo saw was of another shadow crawling to his motionless body, and stare over him as it tore out his eyes.

The world was dark, dark as it always had been in Mu. The only thing he could see was the faint, shimmering image of the spirit in his mind’s eye, watching him as it always had.

Poo…you have never lost your sight before, not even in Mu. You have no idea what will happen now. And so…I’ll…take your ears! I’ll split them from your head, and dangle them over the edge of Dalaam for a raven to steal! They’ll be swallowed by mere birds! You’ll be blind, deaf and motionless! You’ll only be able to know that you’re alive, even if you are just sitting there, unknowing of anything! Do you ask me to remove your ears, Poo? Do you want to be deaf?”



A blind Poo nodded, the spirit fading back into black.

He felt something at his ears, and as they were being lifted, he finally screamed. However, his screams faded away, even though he felt his jaw open. He wanted to think he was screaming, even if he couldn’t tell whether he was or not.

The spirit appeared yet again, cackling. “Poo…you have sacrificed much. But we still are not done…for now, I must take off your head! I’ll cleave if off your neck, tear it from its stump, and leave it behind in a city’s poor slums…I’ll leave it there for the dogs to gobble it up! You’ll be dead, Poo! You’ll be totally destroyed, and you’ll never be able to rise to your country’s aide! But…your pain will finally be gone! You will never grow old, or sick! Poo, do you wish for me to take your head? Do you wish for me to kill you?”

Poo could only nod, his only way of showing communication.

It was a swift maneuver, and he felt no pain at last. The darkness returned to him, as he was finally able to move, see, and hear again. He looked behind him, and stared at his bloody corpse, looking down at what was once him. The spirit appeared yet again, impressed.

You have sacrificed so much to obtain the Powers of Mu…but, there is still one final thing you must sacrifice…will you let me steal your mind, Poo? Will you let me steal the last bit of sanity you have? Will you let me steal what makes you alive, and what makes you seen before me now? Will you sacrifice your mind, Poo? Do you wish for me to take your mind? Are you willing to die…and accept that Evil can win?”

Evil never wins,” Poo thought, but his thoughts had become words.

You will not sacrifice your mind?”

I’ll never sacrifice it. Never, not for the sake of Evil.”

The spirit softly laughed to itself, looking up to nothing. Slowly, reality slowly washed back in, slowly covering up the land of nothingness, and Mu disappeared to reveal Dalaam.

Poo’s eyes looked to the sky. How long had he been here? He found himself on his back, in his body, seeing and hearing. He was still alive…but was it because he hadn’t found Mu?

Pondering this, he picked himself up, and shimmied himself down a rope.

If the art of Mu meant dying for the sake of evil…then he didn’t want to learn Mu at all.

Poo, my son and my student. What brings you here?”



The Master looked down at Poo curiously. Despite the fact that the next day Kai would rule, he was still calm, even if he still had excitement brewing in his body. Kai was the older son, but Poo seemed to resemble him much more than Kai. In a way, Poo was the apple of his eye.

Fa—Master,” Poo quickly corrected himself. He always found himself in the habit of calling the Master his Father, and had to constantly correct himself. He could not call the Master his father until his father was no longer the ruler. Instead, he would have to start calling his brother by Master. “I failed again.”

Oh…” the Master frowned. “I thought that maybe…maybe…you had succeeded this time…”

Will I ever succeed? I was asked to destroy my mind…and I’m not supposed to do that. And I’d never do that.”



I cannot tell you how to succeed,” his Master replied. “I cannot tell whether you will or not. But I am proud of you for making it that far…it was torture for me to make it to that level. And I assume it was torture for you. But, you must not worry about Mu now…come, let us have some tea, to celebrate your brother’s soon-to-come reign…”

-----------------------

The Master wore his more modest attire on this morning, but for the ruler of Dalaam, it was still more regal than even the fanciest clothes in most people's wardrobes. Sir Kun approached the monarch wearing the full uniform that his title ofMilitary Generalcarried with it; with crisp and polished shoes, spotless royal-blue trousers, a matching overcoat over a collared black shirt buttoned all the way to his chin,a dark blue sash tucked into his coat, and several red bracelets over each wrist. He saluted his king, raising one black-gloved hand to his forehead. He stood so straight that not even apebble wouldn't have rolled off the top of his head.

"These certainly are troubling times,"the Mastersaid, "Come now, Kun. You know that isn't necessary. Tell me, what has the council arranged?"

"There is conflict among the council, sire,"Kun replied, "But it has been conceded, as I suspected it would, that our security must be elevated immediately."

TheMaster nodded solemnly. "I dearly hope that my announcement this evening will not further aggrivate this situation. It's not easy being in my position, Sir Kun. It breaks my heart that I have to be protected from the very people I try to keep happy. I hope thatPoo will not resent me."

"Never, sire.He worshipsyou." Kun paused. "Sir... I must make a request."

"Anything, certainly."

"I desire your permission to relocate the Sword of Kings. Personally."

TheMaster faltered, pausing to take in the statement. "Kun," he said, "It has always been one of the most guarded of traditions inDalaam thatonce the crafts of Kings have been gathered every generation, they must remain in their place... they're moved only during a crowning ceremony."

"I realize the gravity of the request, sir, but troubling times often call for bold measures. Royal tradition has not carried as much significance in modern times as it once did. It's just that...I fear for the safety of such important symbols of the ancients. If I may be so bold,Master, if it were up to me, I would send yourself, your family and thecrafts to the most secure of locations until the problem is stabilised. However I doubt that you would agree to such a thing, so I am prepared to compromise."

TheMaster smiled. "You're right," he said, "My place is here. I supposea rulerand his city share the same fate as the captain and his ship. Very well, Kun, do what you feel you must. I trust your wisdom in these matters."

"Thank you, sir,"Kun replied with a bow, "I will make the arrangements immediately, and I shall see you tonight at the celebrations."

"I hope so, my friend, I do hope so."

-----------------------

Later that day, an airplane graced the skies, gliding around Dalaam. While preparations for the evening's celebrations were in full swing, nobody really paid enough attention to the comings and goings, as there were quite many.

The royal seal of Dalaam was emblazoned upon the side of the jet, Kai's private airline, and it flew alone in the flawless blue skies above the still and surprisingly placid city. The people of Dalaam had no need for technology—except for Kai.

Kai's jet was absent of higher life forms but for two—himself, and Kun. The pilot was referred to by Kun as a robot, and many other being on this plane were robots as well. Kun assured Kai that this odd arrangement meant limited witnesses and made for a much easier meeting.

"I prefer it when things run smoothly," Kai said, "Although I suppose nothing is ever without complications, the world is too unpredictable that way,” Kai said, looking around. “Let us return to Dalaam to gather up the crafts of the Kings. Then, we’ll head to Giygas. This will work, as long as you and this…Giygas adhere strictly to the instructions. This will be quick and, if everyone does what they are supposed to do, it will be painless. We'll all get what we want.”

"Painless for some, perhaps," Kun replied. "But not everyone ever get what we want."

Time rolled on.

The air was clear all over the skies as the jet lazily circled Dalaam, everything all around was cloudless, blue and cheerful. If a person from Dalaam looked to the skies that day, Kai's jet could be barely seen as a small dot on the horizon. The remnants of the early morning fog was clearing and the ocean was visible below in all its natural glory.


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