The application finishes loaded, and my eyes awaken to find Anim’s body resting in a bed. A moment later, the soreness of her body washes over my senses and I start moving around and realizing she is covered in a series of medical bandages. Carefully piloting her body, I start to take in my surroundings when I hear Anim speak. “Vit?” (Yeah… It’s me Anim. Glad to know you’re alright.) Anim pauses for a moment before posturing up and speaking once more. “Yeah Vit, I just wanted to say… thanks for everything. Your quick thinking saved us, and it’s become of those actions that I’m still here today.” My guilt not allowing me to be forgiven immediately, I reply, (You’re not mad? Because of me, you got really hurt and I wasn’t sure you were going to pull through. I was thinking of how stupid I was to allow you to get hurt because I didn’t believe this was real enough for me to take seriously, and - ) Anim shakes her head. “There’s still a lot we both don’t understand, but if I were to be partnered with anyone, I’m glad it was with you.” There was no mirror in the room, but I could feel’s Anim’s face shape itself into a smile. I know Anim can hear whatever thoughts I choose to pass to her, but I hope in this instance that she could feel me returning her smile. “Finally awake, aren’t we?” The door into the room slow creaks open as a face peers around the corner to check on its inhabitants, a face we didn’t expect to see so soon, if ever again.
“Goddess???”, both Anim and I exclaimed.
The Goddess we previously met in her hasty introduction to this world now stands before us, but not a single air of grace surrounds her like our initial meeting. Instead of her regal attires and radiating aura, a normal personal wearing plainset clothing stands here by our bedside instead. “I know you’re probably have a lot of questions you want to have answered, namely what happened to you, how you got here, and how I appear a bit… different from our initial encounter, and I will be glad to tell you everything in short order. But before we get into that, are you alright enough to move around and come with me? I’m sorry we were not able to give you a chance to rest a bit longer, but we have some pressing matters we’d like to get you up to speed with if possible.” I flex Anim’s body a bit once more, and despite the immense soreness, no excruciating pain stabbed into any part of her body. Anim nods in response to this stress test, and as I pilot her body to step off the bed, her body crumples into a heap as soon as we try to put weight onto her other foot. The Goddess quickly bends down to help us sit upright, then walks out of the room to grab a wheelchair for us. It took a bit of doing, but Goddess helps us up onto the wheelchair, and leans over to ask once more, “do you think you’ll be ok for the next part?” Anim nods again as fierce as her sore and tired body allows. “Let’s go, there’s a lot of things I need to know.”
“My name is Estellia, and I a member of Bastion, humanity’s last hope against the erasure of mankind”, the Goddess starts as she pushes our wheelchair out of the room we were resting in to the hallway outside. A quick glance suggests that we are in some sort of abandoned buildings, and based on the long hallways with doors appearing at regular intervals, I guessed we were in some sort of hospital or school building. Taking a look outside the building, it looked as though as we were high up in the air, maybe on a mountainside of some sort. Anim and I wanted to ask more questions, but something about the awe of the view made us pause in our quandries and take a look at the wide world just before us. From just the brief look as we crossed through the building, we saw remnants of what were probably large and bustling cities in the past with scattered lights and the remnants of living humans throughout, and farther away in the distance were similar but smaller establishments, and a lot more space out compared to the settlements closer to us. And just at the end of the horizon, colors unnatural and eerily settled into view. It was like something mythical rested at the boundary just beyond humanity, we unconsciously took a long pause to take it all in.
At the edge of our visible world lay 6 distinct colors encompassing the world between the land and the sky. A fierce red ravaged its heat waves, a strong green toppled its strong winds, a mute brown cascaded its ravaged earth, a vicious blue swirled its choppy water, a piercing yellow blinded their rays of light, and an impenetrable purple blocked what was beyond its shadows. In a normal game experience I would have been enthralled to witness the classic elemental archetype and the worlds they represent. but something about this scenery struck me as ominous. Anim too shared this sentiment as quietly took a deep breath, continued looking over the scenery.
“This… is what’s left,” Estellia said to break the reverie we will engaging in. “What you seen before you is the edge of the world, and what is slowly left to be consumed.” My curiosity spoke before my courtesy, and I piped up through Anim, “what about what’s behind us?” I turned Anim’s head as Estellia looked down at us from her position pushing the wheelchair, and she simply replied with “this is what’s behind us.” Estellia then turned to head towards the wall opposite of the scenery, and began.
“You’ve probably already guessed, but this is an abandoned academic structure built on the mountainside. A long time ago, the land below us was so populous and constructing that new places of meeting had to be built in places not so friendly to meet at… ironically enough, it became the safest place after the Exodus.”
I raised my eyebrow unconsciously, and Estellia took note as she changed the direction of her speech.
“You may or may not know, but as I aluded to, the world we inhabit now wasn’t always this desolate. Long ago this world prospered, but in a very unequal and unsustainable way. Ancient texts we have been able to uncover across various ruins described a world where humans originally simply lived to survived, but as humans were the only species capable of thoughtful evolution, they used this advancement to better themselves at the cost of the worsening the condition of others. This led to a rift in the community of humans, and soon they were separated into an prosperous ruling class, the Excavators, and a poor working class, the Remains. Despite how ridiculous this all sounds on paper, this was the reality for the last several centuries of society, and eventually the imbalance could no longer be sustained. Not only were the Excavators draining the Remains of their time and resources, they were also draining the world we live on, until it was on the verge of collapsing. Given a choice to work together and create a solution with the Remains, the Excavators instead decided to continue their trajectory of destruction and at the same time, build an escape to somewhere else. And just as the world was about collapse…something unexpected happened.”
“What I say next isn’t anything official per-say, but the collection of rumors that have became what is known as today’s common truth. As the last bits of the planets were about to be extracted, the planet itself awakened… and proceeded to fight back. There have been conflicting reports about what exactly occurred, but something otherworldly had spawned at the zones of crisis, and began to push back against the Extractors attempting to drain the world. No one who has ever met these ‘otherworldly entities’ has come back to tell us the true story, so a lot of this is just conjecture from the refugees who had to flee those zones, and the entities have been commonly named the ‘Turena’. The Turena not only repelled the Extractors, but began to expand across the world, almost as if the earth itself finally had enough of its abuse and wanted to wipe out the parasites living off it. With no more resources to extract and no more safe places to wait out the growing calamity, the Excavators made their final preparation… and launched off our planet into the great unknown.” Estellia took a moment to pause and look up towards the sky. “It is unknown what happened to them, and quick frankly it matters not as we have more pressing matters now. We are what Remains, and we are running out of time.” Estellia finishes and look again over towards the horizon we initially laid our eyes on. “Sorry, I kind of sidetracked your original question, but the context was important before I give you the actual answer. You asked what was behind us, and I mentioned earlier were on a mountain side. This mountainside, for all intents and purposes, is the edge of our world. Reports has dictated that the Turena has surrounded all outer parts of this region, and we simply don’t have the means to cross up beyond this mountain range. We have sent parties to try and scout it for some semblance of escape… but none of those advance parties have ever come back either.” Estellia stops speaking as a quick frown forms and leaves her face, and recomposes herself before speaking again. “Given all I have explained, you’re probably wondering how you got here, and why you were even rescued in the first. I’ll cut to the chase: you are a Sencho.”
I again unconsciously raised my eyebrow at yet another term I was unfamiliar with, but something began stirring inside of Anim at the mention of the term, a mix of awe and fear radiating our of her.
“Sencho? But those I thought those were just kids stories! Sencho’s are special! They are chosen by fate themselves to defend the Remains! Someone like me alone could never-“
Anim suddenly stops as her own words began to make their way into her head.
Anim pauses once again as if inviting me to speak, as proof that she did have someone else beside her.
(No… you are not alone… because I am here too.)
Despite everything that had happened, Anim unconsciously trusts me, what could be chalked up as an invasion or evil spirit inhabiting her body, and believes that through me, we can together become a Sencho, a defender of the Remains, with some sort of unique ability no other normal humans can muster. Before I could say anything additionally, Estellia injects with a question.
“Given all I have told you… are you willing to fulfill your destiny? As much as this world needs you in this darkest hour, I am not not like my predecessors who forced Senchos to fight when they had no incentive to. They became more harm than good and some even turned on the Remains they were suppose to protect… but even if your reason to stand by us is small, please, we need someone like you now more than ever.”
There was still a lot of questions about this world I didn’t understand, but before I could process my thoughts, Anim stepped up with an answer.
“When I signed up for this program, I had only one goal in mind… risking my life for world already damned seems like an needlessly quick and wasteful way to go…. but if unlocking my ability to become a Sencho is what will help me achieve that goal, I am willing to cooperate… sorry if I can’t give you a more direct answer,” Anim finishes as she frowns.
“Even the tiny allotment of support from someone like you could be all the difference in finding a way to survive against the Turena. We at Bastion will do everything we can to augment you power and help you achieve you goal as long as your lend your aid.”
For the first time in our entire conversation, Estellia smiles, though hints of weariness and exhaustion permeate from her face, and Anim returns that smile.
A searing headache suddenly shot into Anim’s head, and before I could do anything to react, that same familiar grim message returned to plague my vision in VR.