Volume III of Legacy: Black Star, Part 1 - Cover

Volume III of Legacy: Black Star, Part 1

Copyright© 2023 by Uruks

Chapter 16: Waking Pains

I have decided to use Space Worms. They can survive in zero-atmosphere like the Dragons, and many of them grow to the sufficient size. They are non-sentient and not listed as endangered as of yet, so there shouldn’t be any problems. Still, I’ve heard stories of aggression from Space Worms as well. Some spacers say they’ve seen whole ships swallowed by them. I find that hard to believe. Space Worms feed off asteroids. A spacecraft lacks the nutritional requirements of their diets. They may destroy a vessel out of self-defense, but I doubt they would swallow it.

Ryan opened his eyes after what seemed like days. His whole body ached with a soreness and pain he had never known before. Even in all his time training to be an Elemental, all the times he got his butt handed to him by Grafy in a sparring match, he never felt this tired or weak. While dwelling on the tender, fragile state of his body, he looked up at the sky and saw countless stars brighter and clearer than he had seen them in years. There seemed to be a light meteor shower in motion as shooting stars raced across the sky. The streams made by the shooting stars sometimes changed color, from white to green, and from red to purple, and many other colors as well. It felt comforting to know that even in the midst of his pain, something beautiful was happening before his very eyes as lights dotted across his field of vision.

And most beautiful of all was Éclair herself. She sat up on the edge of the crater above him. Her back was to him as her long, flowing silver-gray hair swayed gently in the breeze. She had rearranged what remained of her blue dress to be more accommodating to the harsh environment with the skirt parted at the middle to give her legs free motion similar to her armor. Beneath her blue skirt, which was torn in quite a few places, she had black trousers and white leather boots. Part of her sleeves were torn, leaving her lean but elegant arms mostly bare. Her top was comprised of what remained of her dress that now served as a vest and a white sleeveless undershirt where the dress parted in the center. Her slightly shredded clothes, while not overly immodest, displayed her feminine features in spectacular fashion. She turned to him slowly, revealing that flawless face.

“Good, you’re awake,” called down Éclair’s soothing voice. “I was afraid you were going to miss it.”

“What’s happening right now?” asked Ryan hoarsely, his throat feeling sore and dry.

Éclair smiled down at him sweetly before looking back up at the spectacle that was happening above. “It’s called an aurora shower. It happens on planets with slightly different combinations of hydrogen and nitrogen than what is common in most breathable atmospheres. It is also due to a slight variation of the magnetic fields created by the poles on certain worlds. I have heard of such a phenomenon, but never seen one personally. It’s wonderful, isn’t it?”

Ryan stared up at the jubilant skies and Éclair who sat above him. Her shiny silver locks reflected the light from the aurora shower gorgeously.

“Breathtaking,” he said almost as a whisper, equally referring to both Éclair and the magnificent spectacle happening above them.

Éclair didn’t seem to acknowledge Ryan’s compliment as she continued staring up at the shower. When the event ended with the last twinkling light of a purple shooting star, Éclair sighed deeply in a mix of merriment and disappointment. “It’s amazing how you can find beauty even in the most remote places of the universe. Even on a seemingly lifeless world like this one.”

As Éclair spoke, Ryan thought he could detect the slightest hints of sadness in her voice. For some reason, the thought of Éclair even a little sad was too much to bear. And so, Ryan began willing himself to move. He started with a little wiggling, then managed to move his body enough so that he could push off if need be. However, even that small movement caused him to give a slight whimper of pain.

When Éclair noticed what Ryan was trying to do, she cried out in alarm, “Ryan! You can’t move yet!”

Ignoring her warnings, Ryan gritted his teeth and bore the full brunt of the pain that washed over him as he forced himself to make a fist.

Éclair jumped down into the hole and tried to hold him down. “You bloody fool! I told you not to move!”

“I HAVE TO!” he yelled.

Éclair flinched back in shock, hesitating to force him back down. Ryan made himself lie still for a minute to calm her down.

Speaking softer, Ryan explained, “We’re on an alien world with no food or water. No way of reaching out for help with little chance to be rescued. If that’s not bad enough, who knows what shit we’re going to find on this planet. We don’t exactly have the best track record with avoiding trouble. So we’re probably going to meet some kind of psychopath or monster that’s gonna try and kill us.”

When it seemed like Éclair wasn’t going to stop him, he resumed his wiggling, forcing his clenched fist to the position he needed to push himself up. He unwillingly let out a moan of pain as tears came to his eyes from the strain of putting the slightest pressure on his limbs.

“Ryan, please stop,” pleaded Éclair more quietly without moving.

“If I got you killed because you were trying to protect me now that I’m a cripple, I couldn’t forgive myself!” grunted Ryan as he continued struggling. “Not in this life or any other that might come after!”

He clenched his eyes and teeth as he tried desperately to push himself up with one arm. A slight whimper escaped his lips, but he remained resolute in his undertaking.

“So what does that mean?” replied Éclair, becoming angry. “That you’ll kill yourself to get better! Oh, that makes sense!”

“It means!” groaned Ryan, followed by intense panting as he begged his muscles to respond. “That I am going to sit up ... on my own! And then I’m going to get better!”

“It doesn’t work that way, Ryan!”

With a final push of effort, Ryan sat up as his arms broke their splints and he held himself up by both hands. Éclair’s mouth hung open in astonishment. Despite the pain, he chuckled slightly in satisfaction.

“It does for me,” said Ryan proudly, supported by the weight of his arms which were broken just moments ago.

However, after a few seconds, his arms began shaking and the pain became too great. He was only able to endure it a moment before falling back down. Even his back felt tender when he hit the ground, bringing out a hiss of pure anguish.

After giving him her ‘I told you so’ look, Éclair wasted no time in analyzing Ryan’s arms, squeezing lightly with the tips of her fingers up his shoulder and down to his wrist. She even used her Medical Elemency as her hands glowed with blue light that scanned over Ryan’s arms like an x-ray.

“I don’t believe it,” she commented in astonishment. “Your bones are mending much faster than should be possible, even for someone with Saurian blood. Why, I just set that bone back in place in this arm after it was sticking out like a cigar.”

Ryan gulped slightly from hearing that. “Thanks for telling me. That visual will be with me for the rest of the night.”

“Ryan, you don’t understand,” said Éclair incredulously. “Your body is healing itself at a rate that should be impossible. I’ve heard of some Elementals possessing regenerative abilities like this, but you have to be a medical psionic type like me in order for it to work, and you’re a physical type. I’m not sure what we went through, but it broke nearly every bone in your body, which should have put you out of commission for months, if not years ... maybe even with the proper medical treatment. And yet here you are, conscious and almost sitting up on your own after only a few days.”

The look on Éclair’s face was almost that of fear, and it made Ryan feel uneasy. Maybe she really is starting to think I’m some kind of monster.

Hoping to change the subject, Ryan quickly said, “Speaking of time, exactly how long have I been out?”

Éclair shook her head violently as she tried to focus on the question. “Um ... uh ... I can’t say for sure how long we’ve been here since I just woke up on this world after being unconscious for an indeterminate period. But since then, it has been four standard days. Three since the last time you were completely conscious like this. I’ve been giving you ice to suck on, which you did in a half-delirious state. However, my own estimation of time may be inaccurate since I’ve come to believe that the cycles for night and day are slightly longer on this world than they are on Tarrus. Speaking of explanations ... Ryan, do you know how we first came to this world. Because I can’t remember anything that happened on the ship.”

Ryan sat quietly for a few moments, as he thought of the best way to tell Éclair what happened. Still staring down at the ground, he spoke somberly. “I’m not exactly sure how to say this. But everyone aboard the Commandment ... Captain Freed and all the rest ... they’re all dead.”

Éclair grew silent for a few moments before speaking in a solemn voice, “Yes. I thought as much. I know it’s hard for me to ask this, but I still don’t remember how they died.”

Ryan focused on the memory as best he could. “Something ... something broke through the hull. Something big and dark, like a shadow. It kind of looked like a big bat, but it had an octopus on its head ... or maybe the octopus was its head. And ... and there was something unnatural about it. Almost like ... like it was made of that Dark Water stuff. That’s the liquid that absorbs people’s souls, right? Anyway, it broke through the hull, sucking nearby crewmates into space. The rest were killed by its buddies who burst into the bridge from all sides.”

Éclair waited for a few seconds before asking the question that Ryan knew she was going to ask. The question he knew he would not have an answer for.

“How ... how did we-” started Éclair, but Ryan cut her off.

“The weird part is that I saw the ship being torn apart only seconds before it happened,” said Ryan, his confusion and his concern etched into every syllable. “And I saw you get ... get impaled by ... by some sort of spear that one of those bat things ripped from its back. I saw the ship explode into flames a second later. When the ... the vision, I guess ... ended, I knew what I had to do. I grabbed you and I dove straight for the hole that those things had just made in the hull. I jetted us out into space in order to get through the Gateway that our ship had just made. I figured that the Gateway would probably take us back to Tarrus space and we’d be safe. But I suppose the shockwave from the ship’s explosion must have distorted the Gateway’s path, sending us here. When I saw this planet ahead of us, I went for it. I used a fire shield to protect us from the heat of entry in the planet’s atmosphere. I slowed down our descent as best as I could with a fire blast sent towards the surface. And then I ... I shielded you from the impact with my body.”

Éclair continued to stare in disbelief. Ryan hated the way she stared at him, like he was some kind of freak.

There’s no doubt about it, thought Ryan. I’ve freaked her out! I won’t blame her if she’s scared of me from now on. I’m kind of scared of me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s kind of a cool feeling, but when it comes at the cost of Éclair’s trust, not so much. Not to mention the fact that she probably hates me for leaving all those crewmates to die. Oh, man! And just when it seemed we had made a breakthrough in our relationship.

It took Éclair a moment to respond. “That is ... well, unbelievable, Ryan.”

Ryan nodded slowly, and said, “Yup.”

“Not that I don’t believe you. It’s just that ... Wow! A lot has happened.”

“I know, right,” said Ryan with a nervous chuckle.

Éclair shared an uncomfortable laugh with him. It was a pleasant moment, but one which Ryan knew he could not allow to last.

In a regretful voice, Ryan said, “I’m sorry I didn’t save the other crewmates.”

“Oh, Ryan,” said Éclair in a sympathetic tone. “There was nothing that you could’ve done for-”

“I didn’t even try!” interjected Ryan in self-loathing. “When I had that vision, I went out of my mind. All I could think about was keeping you safe. I was obsessed with it. And what’s worse, you’re not even mine to protect.” Ryan gave out a mirthless laugh. “I suppose it’s pretty pathetic once you think about it.”

Éclair suddenly smacked Ryan’s cheek. It was not a hard slap, but it was enough to get his attention, and make him flinch slightly due to his tender flesh.

“Ryan Uruks,” said Éclair sternly. “We have come too far and survived too much than to give in to something as baseless as self-pity. Now, maybe you could have saved those people, but most likely, there was nothing more to be done. Either way, it doesn’t matter. The past stays in the past. It is the burden of the living to look towards the future.”

“Easy to say when you’re not dead,” said Ryan cynically.

Éclair then pinched Ryan on his arm, causing him to cry out briefly. “You don’t get it! You’re alive! And I’m alive too thanks to what you did! If that’s not a blessing, then I don’t know what is. Now, if you want to honor the memory of those men and women who died, then you live, damn it. Live and remember their stories ... their legacies. And do it without regret or self-doubt. That is how we honor the dead, Ryan. That’s the only way we can.”

Ryan smiled even as his eyes grew a little watery, and he sat up again slightly, despite Éclair’s protesting gaze. “Damn! That was a really good speech.”

“I learned from the best,” said Éclair softly. Then she reached out to Ryan’s head for a slight embrace with her chin resting above his hair.

It was perhaps the sweetest gesture that Éclair had ever shown him. Ryan would have wanted their contact to last as long as possible. If only it was not put off by the fact that Éclair’s hold was starting to hurt his frail body.

“Hey, Éclair,” said Ryan timidly. “This is a really sweet moment and all. And trust me, I really don’t wanna ruin this moment. But you’re kinda starting to hurt me a little.”

Éclair broke the contact suddenly, causing Ryan to fall down on his back and groan in pain.

“Oh, God,” gasped Éclair hysterically. “I’m so ... so sorry.”

“That’s okay,” groaned out Ryan. “I’m used to searing pain whenever you’re around at this point.”

Éclair sighed apologetically. “No one could ever fault you for a lack of fortitude, that much is certain.”

“Balls of steel,” Ryan said with a grin.

Éclair laughed a little despite the vulgarity. Then a strange look came to her face, as if she had just remembered something important. “Ryan. There’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you about. What did you mean on the starship when you said that we had met many years ago when we were children?”

Ryan immediately felt uncomfortable, wanting desperately to be somewhere else at the moment ... anywhere else. “It ... uh ... it must have been the heat of the moment, or something. Tense moments like that always make me talk crazy.”

“It wasn’t the heat of the moment,” persisted Éclair somewhat forcefully. “You described a very specific set of events. You said that you found me lost in some woods. You said that we played with woodland creatures or something, and that you caught me from falling off a cliff.”

“It’s just a dream that I had when I was a kid. It doesn’t mean anything,” lied Ryan, determined to clam up no matter what.

“Ryan,” said Éclair in an even voice, which meant that she was about to get agitated. And worse, it meant that she wouldn’t let this thing go easily. “I pride myself on having an excellent memory. Now I don’t remember this ... this woodland adventure you spoke of, but I do remember the look on your face when you told me of it. And I could tell that it meant something to you. Something very dear to your heart. But I just don’t see how this could have happened since I’ve never even travelled to the Elven world where you grew up before it ... well. before it was...”

“Burned to ashes,” finished Ryan in a deadpan voice.

Éclair went silent for a moment as if choosing her next words carefully. “I don’t mean to be indelicate by bringing up painful memories. I’m just trying to get to the bottom of this. When we first met in those alleys on Tarrus, you acted like you knew me somehow. But I’m telling you that the first time I saw you was on Tarrus, not Toramirese colony. Could you possibly have mistaken me for someone else?”

“Yeah, that must have been it,” agreed Ryan, somewhat spitefully.

“Ryan, stop that!” cried out Éclair indignantly. “Stop shutting me out now. Talk to me. It’s not like we have anything better to do.”

“Éclair,” groaned Ryan grouchily, his voice steadily rising as well as his own temper. “I’m tired. I’m hungry. I just survived a swarm of octo-bats, an exploding starship, and breaking through a planet’s atmosphere. Which is all very painful, in case you didn’t know, having been unconscious and useless through all of it. Not to mention hot, and that’s coming from a guy who can breathe freakin’ fire out of his mouth! Oh, and all this happened seconds before I crashed to the ground and broke nearly every bone in my body! So yeah, I’m a little testy right now!”

Éclair and Ryan exchanged angry looks for a few seconds.

When the silence became a little awkward, Ryan said, “You wanted me to talk, so I talked.”

Éclair scoffed in annoyance. “I don’t know why I somehow thought you had miraculously matured in the few days since your mental breakdown on the ship. I swear, Ryan Uruks ... you are by far the most egotistical, boorish, reprehensible brute of a boy that I have ever had the displeasure of laying eyes upon.”

“Oooooo,” taunted Ryan mockingly. “The big syllable insults. I must have really hit a nerve. But I suppose you’re right. It is my fault. I should remember to be more gracious after saving your freakin’ life! After all, that’s what Leon would have done! Isn’t it, Éclair?”

Éclair clenched her fists and just glared at Ryan in silence for what felt like forever. He started to get scared that she might hit him really hard this time, or worse, freeze something off that he would miss. Either outcome would be infinitely more painful in his condition.

Just when Ryan could not stand Éclair’s quiet wrath any longer, she spoke in a contemptuous voice, “Envy does not become you. Good night, Ryan Uruks.”

And with that Éclair turned her back to Ryan, laid down a few feet away from him, and went to sleep.

Though Ryan was relieved that she didn’t do anything painful to him, he was determined to have the last word. Mimicking Éclair’s accent slightly, Ryan responded, “And GOOD NIGHT to you too, Éclair Ha-Kaves.”

Ryan wasn’t sure why he corrected himself. Maybe because he didn’t want to reveal the fact that Grafael told him of Éclair’s true identity. Fortunately, laying back down wasn’t too much of a problem as it was just about the only range of motion left to him at the moment.

Before drifting off to sleep, Ryan whispered under his breath angrily, mostly so Éclair wouldn’t hear, “Females!”

Zanderius watched as dead bodies, severed limbs, and wreckage floated all around him. The stars still shined in space even in the aftermath of such carnage. The silence of the void seemed to be beckoning him, as if reminding him how old he was and how long he had outstayed his lifespan in this world. Zand’s disembodied spirit was invisible to the search party that Saria had sent. Zand sent some of his Monks as well. The Fire Ministry search vessels appeared as red, flaming arrows floating next to him. The Monastery ships were white, and fashioned to be reminiscent of feathers with glowing symbols of the Hamashe family decorating their elegant hulls.

One of the bodies the vessels passed was still moving. It had only a single limb, but no legs or torso, but it was still moving. It was a Cthulhu, its black, slimy head writhing as its jaws snapped and opened while its massive red eyes rove about for prey despite its own predicament. With a combined blast of Fire and Light Elemency from a Fire Ministry vessel and a Monastery vessel, the abomination was purged from existence.

“He must’ve sacrificed an entire Coven of Mages to send that many Cthulhu against us,” Hannah commented as she stood behind Zand. “Those creatures usually cannot maintain themselves for very long except for one single undertaking.”

The source of this story is Finestories

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