“The New Heroes”
They fearfully run full speed toward the forest. The speeds double that of a normal human to most would be fast enough, but not for them. Not a soul in the world would notice their dismay; all who survived the great extinction do not care for others, only for their survival. They, however, will not be massacred by the beasts. The smell of the area is putrid; it clogs their nostrils. They know this area well; they were raised nearby. From being exposed to harsh conditions for all their lives, the two are barely affected by the smell…but it is still greater than what they are used to. The wind rushes through their bodies, the cold chill stinging at their faces. The roar of the wind whistles through their ears, preventing them from hearing what they know is behind them. They can barely breathe, yet continue running at this speed for their very lives.
The harsh green forest is tainted black with an evil aura from an event they know all too well, but entering here may be their only hope. The two have their hearts racing; this running that they hate so much they could actually get used to. The heartbeats can be felt throughout their bodies; the constant thumping sustains their lives. Thump, thump, thump; they can feel it in their ears, hearing it despite there being no sound. The beats dominate their chests; when they do breathe, they live the experience of heavy inhaling and then exhaling. Like those before them—after all—the first thing you do in a situation like this becomes habit, good or bad. The branches and twigs cut at the young man’s face, his blue hood being his only protection and only do so much. The pain from these small cuts is great, and the stench of this place has now fully clogged the nose; it doesn’t matter if they are used to it or not. Now, the very air itself seems to block one’s hearing, but it is not from their running. No, this is something far more eerie than that.
The lush green marsh surrounding this area that once was a major road will engulf them, if they aren’t killed by the beasts, that is. Who knows how long ago this area was actually usable for travel? Long enough to make the ‘road’ be full of gaps, holes, indents, and potholes. A branch lying on the ground—further evidence of how overgrown this place is—trips his companion and he must halt to save her. The sudden withdraw of his companion forces him to look and dig his feet into the ground, stopping a few yards away. She had fallen so suddenly, it took a few seconds to recover. Stopped, turned around, and running to her side, he has to make a split-second decision that could mean life or death.
He can’t simply just leaver her there to die, yet her long hair now is tangled and will only get her killed. Ahead, the terrain will catch her hair again and again, causing numerous incidents of a similar nature. The leaves that are in her long purple hair just further the deathtrap, as they get caught even easier. And he simply cannot afford another stop; the beasts will be upon them soon enough. He can almost feel their breath on his back; his spine is ice-cold from this feeling. He is sensitive to these beasts, so his hair is definitely raised to respond to this chill. It is as if the very world is trying to test him; the very world trying to cause him harm. She had been knocked unconscious, so no chance of her getting up again any time soon. Leave her, or risk the fangs of the approaching monsters which he can hear snarling in the distance?
Staring at her green eyes, he makes a decision that he knows he’ll regret for a long time and cause him to hate himself, but he knows it is necessary. It would be that or death; his final chance to back down long gone. Worst comes to worst, he would have to fight, yet in his state would probably never win. She’s all he has left, though he cannot carry her for long. He takes a strand of his short, slightly-spiky bright red hair and turns it into a blood red dagger. The materialization out of thin air creates a large red glow, fading instantly as the hair is replaced by blade. The blade whistling in the wind, it does not take much to see that this dagger is powerful. Taking it to her hair, he looks carefully with his blue eyes, and mutters tearfully “Forgive me, Andria.” The blade comes down with a large, powerful whoosh and the howls of the beasts draw near…
The young woman now identified as Andria wakes up, finding her waist-length hair is now only just longer than shoulder length. She can feel it instantly; her hair has a very distinctive touch to it, yet that feeling is gone, or at least, changed. “What did you do, brother?” she demands, though in a friendly tone. Anger would overcome any normal individual at this sudden change, but her love for her brother is too great for such an emotion to be directed at him. But that doesn’t mean that she can’t be extremely annoyed, as she feels right now. She can’t help but also notice he is carrying her before he stops. “I just did what I had to to let us live and to save you,” he replies, putting her down. The forest now surrounding them will keep them safe for a while, but the deeper into the forest, the better. The black-barked trees and the eerie green color of what once were evergreens identifies this area as the place feared by all for what it once was, yet also containing the respect for what it once was even before that. The smell is even worse than before and the sound of random animals howling, snarling, croaking, and chirping around them dominates their ears. This place may have once been human, but no longer.
The path is littered with black vines and roots, covered with murky green swamp holes about. Andria notices his blue coat is half-destroyed, though she has a theory on that. Only two things could have caused that and if it was the first, he would not be alive. Therefore only one option remains in her mind, though she keeps it to herself. Another thing that is different about her brother: a small thread of his hair—something only one in her position can notice—is missing. For just that little piece, she can guess what he did. “You summoned a blood blade?” she inquires, as her brother rests from exhaustion. He manages to allow her to sit up next to him as he himself sits on a rare sight to see…a brown stump.
“Yea, I did. It saved your life, you know.” Andria glares harshly at her brother, running her right hand through her shortened hair. She is frustrated by this deeply, angered by how he had to do the act. Stating angrily, she attacks “With my hair this short, I can’t use my abilities!” It is true; they had had their abilities specially limited from that day. Such was the point that they are limited that their hair is the focus of their power. In her case, she is weak enough so that her hair must be that length. The brother, to his defense, returns the anger in her voice by replying in an equally harsh tone “I had no choice, you know! Anyway—inspired by the old legends—we experimented and found that with effort, it IS possible to use other parts of our bodies besides our hair! Those legends never, ever had the restriction we have. We once had no restriction either, you know, but we couldn’t use out powers since we had no control. This limit is a punishment for back then; we should try and lift it.”
Andria sighs and gives up. Looking at a sign laying on the ground, she disposes of the rust around it and takes a look at it out of curiosity, considering signs like that hadn’t been in use for some time. “By the looks of it, this sign is well over 300 years old,” she comments, as she begins the read the sign out of further curiosity. “‘Welcome to Monroe. Population: 10,000.’ This is from before when our new history began, even by the legends and myths! A relic of the far past,” she reads then comments as she tosses it aside. “Do you know what this place is?” Andria asks slightly nervous. “The forest of Brias, the place all this began 5 years ago.” Andria also remarks “Not to mention—if you believe those old tales our parents used to tell us—it is…”
She is interrupted by her brother, who states “Brian is just a myth. Nothing more. It is a well-told story of his journey across the world to stop the evil doctor—in the end forming a new community—but none of it is true. It was just a myth made to guide us through our new beginning. Just a myth to try and give us hope if the time ever came. And then there’s the fact that—even if he was real—have you forgot the part about him being sealed in that glass tomb, never to awaken again?” Andria signs, as she replies “I’m just stating what I believe. Hope can always do us good. But I know one thing that is more than a myth and stronger even than a rumor. The two witches and the devil’s home. People all said to be over 300 years old reside nearby. Those who know of this place before it was a forest; those who know of the city long-since gone.”
The brother sighs, as he states “Another lie, but I suppose it’s worth checking out…they may be relics from years long past, but we may learn something. That is, if they exist. I’m only doing this because we have nothing better to do.” “To the old ruins of Briasvile, then?” Everyone knew where Briasvile was, back in the days long passed. It was the supposed place where Brian—the great hero of the remaining people after a mysterious disease—led them. The place where it had all began and all ended, it was, if the rumor is true. It was on the ruins of Monroe, and every remaining human—mutated with the disease or not—lived there. Though Brian had strongly recommended against it, the people eventually left Briasvile, leaving only a handful behind to repopulate the rest of the earth. That was 100 years ago.
Just before 5 years ago, Briasvile was just a village, nothing more. The rumored witches and demon lived just away from the populated area, in what once was Briasvile’s center. But 5 years ago, the doctor known as Steve Christopher invented a new drug meant to help the people, but ended up destroying them. The people had ignored the old myths and had paid for it. Every person who had pure human ancestors turned into the beasts, which have been called Smards. It is unknown who came up with that term, but that is the term used. Nowadays, many words once used have lost meaning and some words gained new ones. Some words were invented as the need aroused, as in the case of the new plague, which was given the name Rellicras.
Since many years had passed for the two in prison for ‘their own protection’ against their unusually high abilities, the knowledge from those three that they seek might be especially helpful. Coming to a small clearing, the two find a group of people; two apparently young women and an apparently middle-aged man crowded around a fire. The three look a little abnormal, seemingly out-of-date on the times. By appearance, they seem less infected than the siblings. One of the women asks to the man “David, can you go get the coffee? It’s Christmas Eve, you know. South America was abandoned long ago, so we can only have it on the holidays.” David laughs, as he retrieves some very old cups and pours one for each. “You know, we’ve only got one or two more pouring left.” The two look puzzled. There is never a time to celebrate for them, during any time of the cycle. They are still a little hidden between the trees, but their curiosity draws them a little closer, exposing everything above the waists. David looks right at the visitors, stating “Julie, Kagani, we have visitors.” The one who had not asked David to get ‘coffee’ annoyingly replies “I told you never to call me that! After all these years, you do that just to annoy me!” But the last calms the other two down and invites the siblings in, asking “Care to join us by the fire? You look like you have suffered quite some bit and have been pummeled by the elements.”
The five now gathered properly introduce themselves. Julie standing at six feet, with her green eyes and her short half-green, half-dark blond hair, asks “You came here to ask some questions about us and the past of our people, I presume, my children.” The two are annoyed, as Andria states “What makes you say we are ‘your children?’” The comment obviously brings up pain which Julie can see, disappointed at how she had caused some pain. Julie responds with her own question, saying “Are you from the Jonsson clan?” The two admit that they are and she replies “Then you are a descendant of my husband and me, therefore my children. I was the leader of this city until it shrunk to a village, you know. And then there are your powers. At least one of you has good senses, can heal others, and to some extent can control nature, right? Though my power was low, and has decayed even further over time, that ability still lives in me.”
The statement makes very little sense to the siblings, now comfortably sitting on the metal chairs. Andria then asks “How have you managed to live so long?” Julie looks at David and ‘Kagani’ and sighs. It had been a decision she had made long ago, so the fact that the decision has gone unrecorded is not surprising. She eventually replies “It was a promise I made to my brother. We found that David’s true nature allowed him to live longer, so we risked death by injecting his blood into ours; to allow us to live long enough to witness his return. We even maintained our appearances from when we took the injection. You do know who Brian is, right? I assume you haven’t forgotten the story of Brian D. Lewis, have you? I made sure that it was well-recorded and I must have told that tale a million times—with no exaggeration—to my descendants.”
Andria’s brother signs, as coming from her, chances of deceit are minimal. “It was never written down, so chances are there are variances from the original account, but yes, we have heard it. To most today, however, it is a mere myth.” Julie is quite shocked by this; she had told it a million times and recorded it down, yet since the last time she told it, the records were destroyed and variances were created. Julie asks them to tell what they know and then tells the original, just to get the point across. She then finishes “Something similar has happened again, I presume. You—we—would not be here if that were not the case. I fear that Brian’s rival survived their battle—as did Brian—and was sleeping until recently, somewhere around ten or twenty years ago. From there, it must have taken somewhere around five to fifteen years to start his work again, bigger and better than ever. I believe you know the rest from there.”
The two nod that they sadly do. Brian’s rival must have used the simple alias that threw the locals off-guard, merely changing his first and last name around. He had created a new version of the virus once called the Sarciller and spread it first through his old rival’s town, then the whole world, killing all who had human ancestors. Now that may not sound significant, but many pure-blooded humans survived the original disease, so over 295 years, that made up most of the population. Yet again—like the original—this plague had created few survivors, now the beasts they faced earlier. The two had survived by having their own powers discovered and amplified by the new virus to be stronger than ever. Despite the doctor’s efforts—every time he’d try—at least some people would become strong enough to beat him.
“You look like—despite knowing what your powers are, and I might add how they do resemble that of some of my friends—you know not how to use them properly. Would you like the old experts to train you? We were once the best of the best, so I imagine that even through the new plague, very few fundamental things have changed about your powers.” The two siblings smile, as this would help them. They wish to survive, so doing this might help them. “What’s your condition?”
“That you follow in another one of your ancestor’s steps and find every survivor that you can. Unite them, and you may stand a chance. Fail and we all could die. At the very least, he will live on, causing further damage to the land. Brian’s mission would have failed, the people united under a tyrant. Like it or not, you two may be the only ones who can stop him, since our powers are not what they once were.” The two siblings have a brief talk. It almost sounds like Julie is asking them to do the impossible. However—eventually—they simultaneously reply “We accept!”
“Okay, we’ve been training for half a week, and still nothing…you mastered your initial powers in a few hours and yet after all this time, we haven’t even discovered what our actually powers are! ‘Tight not be worth it!” The brother exclaims, stomping his fist to the ground in frustration. Julie is confused by his use of tight, before ‘Kagani’ explains “While my powers had nothing to do with language, I took it to be an errand to learn all languages. You’ve got to remember that at first, I spoke not a word of English, so I think I know what that means…’tight’ these days is a compression of ‘it might’, if I understood correctly.” Over the past week, Kagani had needed to adjust and try to give definitions for words not in Julie’s vocabulary or the new definitions for those that are yet have changed. Julie simply nods and acknowledges “Ah, I see,” before replying to Andria’s brother, saying “This is not the Sarciller; by now you know this. It was probably modified to make it so that as few people as possible had amplified powers. Not to mention, you two seem to have some type of modification done to you that I cannot help with; this is something you may have to live with. Oh, and there’s something that has been getting on my nerves, brother of Andria.”
“What’s your name? I’ve been calling you ‘brother of Andria’ for too long!” The rest of the group seems to take some humor to this, but not Andria or her brother. The brother sadly sighs, before stating “I might have had a name at one time, but if I had one, it was forgotten a long time ago.” The question obviously brings up a pain in his heart; that might have once been something to him. Julie frowns at this, inquiring in her friendliest possible tone “Then what do I call you besides ‘brother of Andria?’” The brother admits “I don’t know,” lowering his shoulders as if to confirm this, before continuing “The only thing I can think of would be…Ronin.” “Good enough, Ronin. Anyway, are you going to stand there, or are you going to work?”
Training is harsh in comparison to what Julie had gone through, she does admit, but not a person in the remnants of Briasvile denies that they need to become more powerful. Silently, she mutters “My powers have decayed so much, I doubt I could do a simple healing. Even at my old full potential, I would not be able to match these two’s abilities. They might be our only hope, so I’ll train them as best as I can for you, Brian.” Saying and doing, however, are two different things, as Julie had discovered. She is particularly interested in Ronin’s powers, since they seem so close to the ones that…” she shakes that thought off, but at least training is a little easier because of the familiarity of their powers.
“Concentrate! Though your hair regrows rapidly, at the rate you’re going, you’ll be bald!” She shouts, as she catches Ronin using his hair again. “And what do you think I’m trying to do?” He shouts back, as he concentrates, and brings a small dagger in. “Impressive. You are making progress. When I’m convinced you have reached a level where you can actually fight, I’ll train you to use your abilities inside of combat.” Ronin is quite angry about the ‘actually fight’ part, because he believes he can already, but according to Julie’s story, she had made the same mistake, and nearly got killed…twice because of it, so he redoubles his efforts. Andria is doing just as well, as she already is a twice the power level that Julie had started at when she discovered her powers. She also notes how Andria’s original hair length has returned, and takes it as a really good sign of progress. Talking to David, she asks “Do you think they are ready?” “Give them another day. After that, train them in combat. They are tough, and I sense their spirits are strong, so they can handle it. They will be at the end of their stage one powers soon, and on to stage two. It took us about the same time to reach that stage, so initially I doubted their soul’s endurance, but they can handle it. After they have finished, then it will be just about time.”
At the end of the day, Julie hesitates, but eventually states “You’re just about at your initial limit. There’s a risky procedure that will allow you to reach that limit, then surpass it and begin slowly exploring your new limit, which I cannot help you with. It only takes a few hours, but if you fail, you die.” Ronin doesn’t even hesitate to state “Do it!” and Andria only takes a couple seconds longer to reply “I will go through with it. The stronger we are, the more we can help others, even if they have no desire to help us. While I watched others merely side with anyone to survive, I care for all of them, and will do anything to help them. Especially after…” Ronin quiets her down, in a soft tone saying “There is no need to tell them about that yet. But you are right. Despite how I may look, I actually do care as well, and can’t help but think how similar my feelings are to…” This time, it is Andria which silences Ronin, leaving Julie to wonder, as far as they can tell. “Very well. This procedure also happens to be extremely painful, so brace yourselves!” Julie warns, as she hits both of them with a powerful seed, causing them to faint. She herself collapses from the effort, as this takes all of her strength. The siblings are now twisting and turning, wretched with pain. “I hope I haven’t just destroyed what may be our only hope.” Julie prays as she recovers. “Only their strength and heart will keep them alive now.”
An hour passes. Then two. Time seems to crawl, as the two have lost most of their skin. Ronin has even lost all the tissue down to the bone on his right leg and left arm. Their eyes are in the back of their heads, and they seem to even grow fangs. The plants nearby suddenly die, and the siblings now have extra long fingernails, which are most likely razor-sharp. Both of their skin colors, normally light tan, now seem to be growing darker, and what are normally their eyes glows red. “This is bad. The process is backfiring.” Julie panics, as David calms her down. “Andria is beginning to recover, and Ronin won’t let her sister beat him, especially when that means he’ll be weaker than the one he wishes to protect above anyone else we know of. Just wait, Julie. While none of us went through this procedure, back then it wasn’t necessary.” Julie begins to smile at this, as she has some warm memories of back then, trying to become stronger. “They really do remind me of all of us back when we started, though it is clear they have experienced almost, if not more, pain than we did, possibly more than even Brian.”
Andria recovers two more hours later, but still is sleeping from the damage done. Her hair seems to be glowing, and her eyes remind Julie of a look she hasn’t seen in 300 years. Ronin himself is beginning to become slightly better, though he is still fighting. “The process is a bloody fight against yourself, and the stronger you are, the tougher it becomes. I already am beginning to see just how much they do resemble you and Brian, though obviously a little darker than you.” David notices, as Ronin seems to be glowing dark red. “I wonder if the process will activate hidden memories of things we keep secrets about even to ourselves.” Julie ponders, as David leaves the room. “I’ll get wood for a fire…I miss the days when we could just ride a car to get firewood, but after we discovered our powers, a good portion of technology out there became unnecessary, especially considering how no person knew how to reconstruct some of them, and how very few people knew how to use them. Now, the only technology more advanced than swords, axes, and knives belongs to enemy guards, or so I hear.” These words are all David needs to say to express the pain that all of the three.
It takes more time than expected, but Ronin actually manages to wake up before his sister, fully healed with his body fully restored, however, his own clothes seem to be bound to his power, as they too, have changed. His coat now has no sleeves, and the ends are spikes. His pants are nearly a foot above where they would normally be, and the ends are ripped with spikes. Julie decides not to bother mentioning just how much he resembles a punk now, as there would be no point, and that word would have changed meaning anyway. Ronin seems to still be in shock when he gets up, though he overcomes it quickly as he states “I finally know why my powers so much resemble those of Brian.” Julie smiles, as she says “Good. I assume you also know why that is so.” “Yea, that is true. Why didn’t you tell me?” “It was necessary at the time. Anyway, get some rest. You’ve still got to train your combat skills, as powers will do little good if you can’t fight without them.” Ronin takes Julie’s advice, and falls asleep, looking at her sister. His eyes are now slightly different, as the right is red, the other a darker blue. His left eye reminds him of her so much, considering how it is actually closer to purple than blue.
When the pair wakes up again, Julie is ready, and begins beating them to pulps. Julie had made a comment on how every moment would be training, as when she tripped and scraped her arm, it was “Unexpected pain training.” When Ronin finishes drinking his water, as Julie had learned water is essential to someone training, especially one with blood-related powers, Julie again starts bruising him. “Despite how much you want to, sometimes you just have to back away. The key is knowing when to do which. Or, at the very least, learn to dodge. That isn’t running away, so it’d do good to learn how to do it.” Julie teaches, as she demonstrates some dodging techniques. “This won’t be as easy as I’d hoped.” Julie finishes, as Ronin finally dodges instead of blocking. Training continues, and Ronin actually gets to land a blow. Eventually, Andria trades, and work starts over again. The process continues over, and over again. By the end of training, two more weeks have passed. “Ready to leave yet?” “We are.” “Great. We leave tomorrow at dawn, in the hopes of survivors being found. While we are not as strong as we used to be, we will come with you anyway, as we may prove useful.” The night engulfs the camp, and everyone is nervous. Tomorrow, hope would be reignited.