Chapter 6 Title: The Passing Train
The forest swayed along as if following the boy’s pace as he walked back and forth impatiently.
“What is taking Lucas so long?” The blonde-haired boy shone under the moonlight, filled with anxiety. He had been concerned about his friend’s whereabouts for a while now, and gnawed on the insides of his mouth as he waited on the brink of chasing after his friend’s trace and staying put.
He peered over the bushes, at the deteriorated mansion and groaned. “Should I go in…?”
He shook his head. “No, Lucas might come and find me missing. I’ll stay put for a bit more…”
His head turned back sharply when he heard a rustle but to find that it was just an animal.
“A fox…? No...” its glimmering blue eyes stared at him gallantly, exerting immeasurable pressure, “...I greet the noble and...loyal protector of the North Wind.”
In the empire, there are four royal Dukedoms each blessed with powers of four different, but extremely powerful, spirit tribes. The North has the White Wolf tribe, the South has the Emerald Deer tribe, the West with the Golden Lions, and the East with the Diamond Eagle tribe. It is said that four future heirs of the Dukedoms wielded powers granted by the spirits themselves - though it shortens their lifespans if constantly used.
But because there were many villains trying to obtain power for themselves, the four animal tribes hid themselves supported by the power of the four noble Duke families. It was extremely rare to encounter them.
‘But this is the West, so what is a wolf from the North doing here?’
The wolf’s cool eyes made Mikaela stare back. Out of nowhere, the wolf laid down on the grass and placed his two front paws neatly in front of him as if asking Mikaela to step forward. His posture was relaxed in this situation which was the opposite of Mikaela’s who wanted to step out as quickly as possible. His mind was set on departing from this spot and searching for Lucas.
“What is it that you seek, intelligent young one?”
Mikaela flinched when heard the wolf speak softly without opening its mouth.
“In other words, what are you so anxious about, young one?” It tilted its head, soft blue light vibrating off of its glamorous fur.
“...Excuse my rudeness, but I’m in an urgent situation right now.” Another explosion set off right after he finished. “I have to find my friend who’s still in that building.”
“I see…do you require a hand?”
He almost stumbled. Him? Ask for help from a member of a legendary wolf clan? Impossible. “I-I’ll be alright. Excuse me.”
He dashed off with the wolf tailing him. The two were silent the whole time as Mikaela jumped back into the dilapidated mansion that lost its former grandeur, not knowing what to say to the wolf.
“...what does he look like?”
“Black hair with golden eyes.” Mikaela answered, scouting the area ahead. “And - how should I address you?”
“”Sir Wolf” is fine,”
Any hint of humbleness vanished from his words which the wolf accepted, astonishingly, without any arrogance or complaints.
“I see, I’ll search this way then.” He directed his nose to the East Wing that was already in shambles and they separated. It felt so natural, as if they were partners for a long time.
‘It’s still weird, though. What would a North Wolf be doing in the West?’
He skidded to a stop at the sight of a familiar back and grinned. “Lu- - !”
Lucas suddenly collapsed onto his knees with a pale face. Mikaela’s eyes shifted towards the scene displayed in front of Lucas. The Baron was thrown onto the ground with the man the Duke. He looked back at Lucas who looked as if he wanted to vomit, clamping his hand over his mouth at the blood spreading across the dusty marble floor.
“Lucas,” he called out. Lucas, startled by the sudden comfort, turned around, half relieved and half shooken.
“Mikaela,” he said softly,
“Don’t worry about that man.” Mikaela eyed the Duke. “He’s back up.”
“He won’t harm us.”
“So then, what’s wrong?” He bent down and looked into Lucas’s eyes.
“...I just...was a bit surprised.”
“Don’t worry! We’re saved now!” Mikaela said, grinning and spreading out his arms and letting them fall to his side. “We can go anywhere we want now! The Duke will take care of us!”
“Duke…?” His mind spun around bizarrely. “The Duke?”
The Duke cleared his throat. “I’m the Duke of Winurasten...your uncle. I’ve come to pick you up. Originally, I was supposed to fetch you with less...rubbish, but some problems occurred and I had to deal with them simultaneously on the way….My apologies for alarming you so suddenly.”
“I-it’s…” his vision swayed and his head felt as if it was about to explode all of a sudden. “I-I’m fine…”
“Lucas?” Mikaela held his burning hand, and jumped at the high temperature. “Quick! We need to fetch a physician!”
With those last words, he toppled over and landed in Mikaela’s arms.
“I’ve ordered people to secure your sister.” A deep voice said. “Your parents will be dealt with separately….to exterminate them, or leave them alive and just hand them some gold?”
“Some gold will do.” The familiarity of the voices made him stirr. “Just silence them….announce that I’m your adopted son yet?”
“I’m planning on your first debut along with Lucas’s….to make it during the North Winter ceremony, or during the Fall festival, which is in a month. That’s where all the family heads of the Dukedoms will be present…will be attending.”
“The Fall festival sounds fine….shouldn’t delay it for too long.”
“Then we’ll have to order some customized clothes for you both….the most expensive designer.”
“Oh, and I also want you to find an opportunity to isolate this person…” the voice turned into a bare whisper that sounded inaudible then rose back up again. “I’ll handle her…. bring her here.”
The room looked dim and bleary, then clear when he blinked a few times. The ceiling that he woke up to was adorned with jewels and intricate designs, unfamiliar to him. He moved his hands slowly to feel a soft texture underneath him. It felt as if he was being swallowed by softness and sinking into the comfort of this luxury that he can’t get up from.
“Oh! Lucas, you’re awake.” A soft smile greeted him, and twinkling bell blue eyes gazed at him adoringly.
“W-where..am I? What is this?” His hands kept groping the silk blanket that felt so precious and smooth that it seemed as if it’ll slip out of his hands if he let go.
“This is a Winurasten manor in Louisville, a city near the border of the West and the North.” The tall man next to Mikaela answered kindly.
“Um...am I...supposed to call you ‘Uncle’ from now on?” Lucas asked. It sounded a bit rude considering the fact that he was still lying in bed, and his hand kept on touching the blankets uncontrollably, as if enchanted by the softness he never felt before in his life.
“If you feel uncomfortable and awkward about that, you don’t have to worry about that.” The Duke said.
“N-no it’s - ah!” When he attempted to rise up, he felt a burning sensation in his arm and immediately sank back down.
“Lucas, do you want to rest some more?” Mikaela said, disrupting their stiff mood.
“No, I’m fine - “
“You heard him, right, Duke?” Mikaela said, blocking out Lucas’s sentence. “He says that he wants to rest. You can leave now.”
“What? When did he - ?”
Before he knew it, he found himself being pushed out of the room by the blonde haired boy with an innocent smile.
“Mikaela…” Lucas began.
“Your welcome,” Mikaela intoned, locking the door behind him. “It’s a good thing that I kicked him out, right? You must have a lot of questions, don’t you? And,” he glanced at Lucas’s hands that was still probing the blankets unconsciously, “you must really like that blanket.”
“Huh?” Lucas exclaimed, then quickly grabbed his hand off of it. “A-anyway...are we now officially part of the Duke’s family?”
“Yup, but don’t worry. Our first names won’t change, only our living environment will.”
“...I see,” a sudden thought struck him with guilt. “W-what about the orphans? What happened to them? We have to ask the Duke to save them!”
“I informed him about that as well, and he said not to be concerned. Since Baron Buballavier has fallen with his land and title stripped away, all his possessions are confisticated, and we now own this area that he used to control.”
“I see...so the Duke gained some land from this incident as well.” Lucas smiled a little. “I'm glad that we were able to do something for him; because he saved us, he earned stuff as well.”
“What are you talking about?” Mikaela’s brows furrowed. “He doesn’t own it, we do.”
It was as if lightning crashed down on him. “What?! We do?!”
“Yup! Isn’t that great?” Mikaela said happily, taking a seat at the edge of the bed. “Now we can do what we want and help the ones in need! We can even order people to build a house for the orphans if we want to!”
“But...I don’t...I don’t like the idea of ruling over our town that we lived in for so long.” Lucas said truthfully. “I...I don’t feel like I’m up for it. What if something goes wrong? What if I become so drunk in power that I become a tyrant?”
“You have me,” Mikaela placed his hand on Lucas’s and scooched closer. “As long as we’re both together, we can do anything. I’ll keep you sane, and you can keep me sane. Isn’t that what we’ve always done?”
“Yeah, that’s true.” Lucas broke into a grin. “I’m glad that we didn’t get separated.”
“That won’t ever happen. I won’t let it happen.”
“Then, let’s live a long life together, friend.”
“Mikaela,” Lucas called out to the boy next to him. “Mikaela? Mikaela!”
“Hm?” The blonde boy blinked. “What’s up?”
“Nothing...it's just that...you seemed a little vacant, staring into space.” Lucas replied, closing his textbook. It’s been a couple of weeks since they arrived at the Duke’s mansion, and he could now move his arm flexibly without feeling a shot of pain rising in him. “You’ve been doing that ever since we arrived at the estate.”
Mikaela, being reticent, had been blank as a white sheet of paper lately, dozing off into the far away distance. “H-huh? Was I?”
This situation felt as if it was repeated which seemed laughable to Lucas.
‘Where have I encountered this scene before?’
“Sorry, I was just...pondering about something.” Mikaela looked around at their surroundings and sighed. “So much has happened and changed. We used to be boys who ran around the streets and now we’re suddenly nobles. How funny is that? Who would’ve thought that life would change so drastically with one fateful encounter.”
Sitting in a luxurious garden with tall rose bushes and drinking tea worth two years of a commoner’s regular salary was something that they never dared to dream of. The flowers and large expansive fields of grass extended to the point where they can still see the color green far away.
“I never thought that the Duke’s estate would be this big.” Lucas said. “It makes me shocked to the point where I’m scared to touch a teacup. You don’t know how much they’re actually worth.”
Mikaela laughed. “The Duke is rich - he wouldn’t bat an eye if you broke a teacup that belonged to a king in front of him.”
“Money really is great, isn’t it?” Lucas said with nostalgia. “It’s totally different from before. It’s as if we’re brought into a whole new world.” He sat up. “But still though, the noble world is a lot more than just dressing up and attending tea parties everyday like I imagined. Who would’ve thought that we would have to study? Look at all this information!” He rattled the handful of sheets in his hands.
“You aren’t good at studying at all now, aren’t you?” Mikaela sniggered.
“Hey! Not everyone is book smart like you!”
“You’re not that good at swords either,” Mikaela added and Lucas flushed even more.
“I-I’ll train harder! It’s not my fault! I got injured and had to stay in bed for a week, so you got a head start.” Lucas countered with a pointed nose.
“Wow~! What a great noble attitude, young master!” Mikaela teased him, chuckling. “You’re becoming more and more like what a young master of a Duchy should be! What a model student!”
“S-shut up! Stop making fun of me,” Lucas groaned. “And plus, aren’t you also one of the young masters of the Duchy? Although I’m the one who’s going to inherit this whole thing though.” He waved his hand to all the land in front of him and slumped onto the table. “It’s too much. I’ll just give you half of it, or you can just take all of it. Or better yet, you can manage all the state affairs and I’ll just laze around.”
“I’ll certainly do it better than you,” Mikaela sneered and sipped from his cup. “Just kidding. It’s too troublesome being a Duke - and a Grand Duke at that. And plus, you’re the one with the Winurasten blood, not me. I was just adopted by the current Grand Duke. A lot of nobles won’t acknowledge me because of my past.”
“If it’s like that, then wouldn’t I be treated as an outcast as well?”
“You won’t, since you’ve got the blood flowing through you.” Mikaela assured him.
“Then can’t I just protect you that way?”
“Huh?” Mikaela stiffened. “What are you talking about? I don’t - “
“No, I mean that you can just use me as your shield, can’t you?” Lucas said confidently. “I’ll just handle all the slanders and the rudeness for you.”
“I can’t make you do that!” Mikaela said, vacillating between joy and pride. He hesitated to continue after that sudden raise in voice. “I-it’s just...using you as a shield feels as if I’m abusing our relationship and taking advantage of it, you know what I mean?”
“I understand,” Lucas nodded. “But it’s alright. It’s you, after all, Mikaela. If it's anyone else, I wouldn’t even offer this proposal to them.”
“...although the fall of that disgusting Baron had a severe backlash and many protests, the Duke was able to silence them with a single glare.” Mikaela brought up slowly. “As long as the Duke is alive, none of us two will be a human shield.”
Lucas laughed a little, attempting to shake off the chill he felt from Mikaela’s words. The conversation proceeded to steer into other channels until a servant came to notice them of the Duke’s return.
“Uncle is back already?” Lucas remarked, sounding like a whine. Ever since that Baron Bubullaiver incident, the two boys stayed with the Duke, therefore, developing a more intimate relationship with the Duke. It’s become second nature to them to greet the Duke when he returns from wherever he may have gone during the day.
“What a pity, I wanted to stay in the garden a bit longer.” Mikaela groaned, struggling to stand up.
“I will inform the Master of your whereabouts,” the servant recommended thoughtfully. Mikaela plopped right back down onto the grass the second those words were said.
“Okay! You can leave now.” Mikaela grinned. “And also, you can take back the tea. Some biscuits with chocolate would be nice.”
“Mikaela!” Lucas gave him a small slap on his arm. “If you eat too many sweets, you’ll get cavities and your teeth will fall, you know?”
“It’s fine~” Mikaela assured him. “I don’t eat as much either way. Sweets are also good for you too, you know? It energizes you - and it's best to enjoy such delicacies while you have it. The head chef here is really talented, at least it gives him something to do.”
Lucas, speechless, couldn’t come up with a counter for that remark. “Whatever.”
After a few minutes, they heard footsteps pressing against the grass steadily approaching them.
“Lounging around, I see.” The voice made them look up.
“Welcome back,” Mikaela said nonchalantly.
“Welcome back...uncle,” Lucas observed, peering at an envelope in his hands. “What’s that?”
“A letter of invitation to the Fall festival that’s coming up in a week.” The Duke handed Mikaela the letter who scanned through it after ripping open the envelope without a care. “We must prepare. The host this year is the Northern Duchy. The emperor will also attend as well. There’s much to be accomplished.”
What's best for me
Is to move on
It hurts me
These constant realizations
Of my failures
Of my promises.
green leaf volatiles
blades on the wet ground
screams in a mist—heavenly
smells of fresh cut grass
Chapter Five: Plans
Chapter Five Part I: Creating A Plan
As the group looked through the reinforced glass windows after their hopeful conversation about the future, the zombies made their way once more to Star Ride, beating on the ship with their hands and heads. Some had rocks they threw, which thankfully had no impact against the strength of the titanium ship.
Clint, Margo, and the rest of the crew would die from malnutrition before allowing those zombies to feast on them. Tiring of hammering away from these lifeless forms, Clint turned toward his crew.
“Okay, people, we had our fun. It’s about time we start to have a plan that can work to kill those bastards out there once and for all.”
Turning to his left he said, “Dale, you’re the mechanic, so I need to know a few things. One, how much fuel is still intact with Star Ride and second, can you create flame throwers?”
“Never made a flame thrower before but I’m sure I can put something together along that line that would work, similar to a handgun, only larger. I just checked the fuel earlier this morning, and we have about thirteen-thousand gallons left in the jettison cargo hold, and another four thousand in reserve, in part to when we loaded up at the space station.”
“I can help you with that, Dale.” Brad spoke out. “When I was in the military, flame throwers were one of my specialties. Since I can kiss my retirement goodbye, might as well use the time I have for something good.”
“This is good, you two." Clint smiled. "You might want to get started now. We need one made for each of us, as well as twin tanks we can carry like a backpack with fuel as a backup."
"Margo, since you are the athlete among us, I think this would be a good time to start teaching all of us different ways to defend ourselves against those dead pricks out there."
Clint suggested next. "Jules, you don’t have combat experience, do you?”
“Not a lick, Clint. I was born between wars and was never called to duty. My time, or I should say, the only fighting I have ever done, is uncovering an artifact below the ground.”
“Oh, I am so going to love this shit!” laughed Margo. “I know so many ways to take an opponent down, it’s unreal. Within a week Jules, you’ll be ready to start kicking ass without sweating the names. Might as well get this started right now!”
Outside, the hammering against Star Ride only intensified, but it did them no good. As everyone was doing what was assigned, Clint went back to the radio.
“This is Commander Clint Raymond, Captain of the U.S. Star Ride. If there is anyone out there receiving this message, please acknowledge. I repeat, please acknowledge.”
Other than static interference, he heard nothing. He kept at it about hour before he decided to walk away to check for any progress with Dale and Brad. Less than twenty feet away he heard the words— “come back.”
Stopping in mid-step for half a second, he raced back to the radio.
“Yes! This is Captain Clint Raymond. Who is this and where are you?”
“You won’t believe this, but this is Phil, buddy. Good to hear your voice. Are your wife and kids with you since your return to Earth?”
Clint was overjoyed that his best friend Phil was still alive, but he went on to explain what happened at the space station.
“Dammit! I am so sorry for you, Clint. That should never have happened at all. Not like that, but when this zombie thing got out of hand, we weren’t able to get any crew members safely out to launch pads to get back there to relieve anyone any longer. Right now, I’m in Phoenix, with about thirty-five thousand troops and a hundred fighter jets. Jets are sent out daily to strafe the zombies until we know for sure they won’t get back up again and keep doing what they do. The bad news ... this is all that is left of our military. Everything else has been compromised."
“However, this may be good news for you. Andy and Zach, along with Carla’s parents, are safe with us. Your parents though.... We couldn’t get to them in time. You can tell the rest of your team; their families are safe with us. Beyond them, we have about another forty-thousand civilians, some of which are in military training.”
Tears formed lines down Clint’s face hearing this. “That is good news, Phil. Give them my love and … and … do the best you can to break the news to them about Carla and Maria for me.”
“No problem, Clint.” “We are working out a defense system here in the meantime, Phil. Making something similar to flame throwers so everyone here has one and honing our fighting skills. But I need to know—what stands between you and us?”
“About twenty million dead people walking around hungry as hell. And right now, with you at Mission Control, this puts you about twelve-hundred miles from us. I can have five of our jets come in and grab each one of you to get back here, but it will have to be quick. The way they clamor together, you might be lucky to have a one-minute open window of time to get onto the jet and back here. One slip, one fall, and it’s over.”
“I get it, Phil. Get back to me with the ETA and I’ll inform the crew meantime.”
“I can let you know within twenty-four.”
“Twenty-four minutes would be better, but we’ll take what we can get, Phil. Over and out.”
Clint, somewhat relieved to know that he and his crew weren’t alone, went to check on Dale and Brad. But he was even more relieved to know his boys were alive.
“Hey, Clint,” said Brad. “We’re working to piece something together along the lines of that flame laser Dale put together before, but with more power and a wider area to spread the flames once we engage the trigger, probably as much as a fifty-foot area.”
“Sounds good to me. Now here is the deal, you need to have them ready to go in the next twenty-four hours.
“Twenty-four … you can’t be serious!" Dale exclaimed. However, the look on Clint’s face told him he was indeed serious.
Then Clint told them that help was on the way, and later he would tell Margo and Jules the same thing. One shot was all they had to get to a safe haven. There would be no second chance.
Part II: Another Plan
Miles away from Star Ride, a female corpse opened her eyes. She found herself in a pile of corpses, disgusted by the smell. She did a once over of her body, which was unrecognizable after the undead had snacked on her and Darryl.
"Darryl? Where is Darryl?" The corpse yelled in a sudden panic.
The corpse gasped, shocked that she was able to somehow speak clearly. Once the shock wore off, she tried to collect her thoughts further. She remembered that her name was Elena, at least that was what she went by when she was alive. She questioned how she could still be alive, with her internal organs hanging outside of her decaying body, and the stiff cold feeling she felt when touching her skin. She checked for a pulse on what was left of her neck and found none. She had to be dead, just like all the other bodies she was sprawled on top of. Yet, she could think, she felt aware, she had memories flooding back.... memories of being exiled from the safety of the Star Ride.... her and Darryl. She had no idea what became of Darryl after they were swiftly attacked.... but she was still alive if you could call it that, while also being very dead too.
Elena stood up and clumsily began moving away from the pile of corpses. She would seek Darryl, as well as find out why she hadn't met the same fate as the other undead. Before she could get too far, she heard a moaning behind her. She turned around to see another corpse approaching her quickly. It seemed just like all the rest out there, as in not an intelligent dead being like herself, but another mindless, murderous flesh-eating machine. Without thinking about it, Elena instinctively put her hands out as if she were going to push her would be attacker away and yelled "Stop!"
The zombie stood still, looking to her for another command. Elena stood puzzled for a moment, then decided to try something else.
"Dance like a chicken!" Elena shouted, not expecting her ridiculous request to be answered. But the zombie did just that.
"Eat one of the bodies in that pile."
The zombie went back to the pile of bodies and began devouring the one on top. After finishing the meal, the zombie returned to Elena to await her next directive.
"Bow before me."
The zombie bowed low before Elena. A wicked smile formed on what was left of her face. She was undead, yet aware of everything, and even able to still speak and think. Not only that, but she apparently had the ability to control members of the undead by commanding them. She seems to be an alpha, and with this latest turn of events, she could not only keep herself as safe as it was possible for someone that was dead, but she could also use her newfound gift to shape what was left of the world however she wanted to. She thought about the crew of the Star Ride and laughed about the regrets they would feel for sending her to die in the wild. With her death a new life had come, a life that would usher in a new world, a world that had no place for those that foolishly sealed their fate by banishing her from their temporary safety. Even with a lifeless tongue, Elena thought about how her revenge would taste oh so sweet....
Written By: Roses311Sublime
i don’t know how to be without you
at least right now
stuck in the interim
in a self created purgatory
where not even the vultures go
Picking new apples,
From the family orchard
Red gems we call them.
old and wise
and at that moment, as they stood there, on the edge of the board walk it all seemed so poetic. the love they shared had gone through every rough patch known to man kind. but standing here after so many trying times. having experienced the sweet, bitter and sour together. she half smiled as she took in the view on the sun backing into his hiding place, its long, golden fingers stretching out and reflecting on the lakes water. This was the place they confessed their love, the place he had proposed and now after so many years the place they would spend most of their days for the time they had left. soaking in every precious moments. indulging in every memory. loving the sun rise and watching it make way for the moon to take its place with dancing stars hovering around it. here they would grow grey and tell their love stories to their childre andgrand children. but most importantly; this would be a reminder of the love they shared. through the good and all of the bad. this was their spot. their home away from home...
There’s a nobody kid at the end of the street
And he smiles at the sight of me coming
I hope someone loves him the whole of his life
Learns to sing to the tune that he’s humming.
There’s a nobody kid and he’s tough as can be
But he cries just like anyone would
And if only he knew that I’ll always be here
'Cause I’d give him the world if I could.
There’s a nobody kid and he’s restless and wild
He'll grow up, leave this place, and be free
But wherever he wanders, whatever he does
He'll always be someone to me.
The Lonely Lake
An empty green lake
Splash! Ducks have landed in it
Full until they leave.
Droopy White Flowers
The smell of fresh musk
Whoosh! The wind goes, fast yet slow
Snowy flowers droop.