Tragedy of Phoba

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Fantasy Realm

The continent Ibon. An independently run area that houses both Humans and beings known as Kraeka, though they usually don't interact. The town of Phoba borders the lands, and fears the Kraeka greatly. Maya Nephim and Megumi Nen are in this town on vacation from their job in a group known as 'Demon Hunters'. Megumi is known around these parts but Maya is not and sparks mumblings of conversations around her. The town has called forward a vote, their own traditional means of panic when it involves what they believe as Kraeka and how they would deal with it. With the town Phoba scared again what outcome comes from this city who fear the unknown?

Puddles from a frigid rain form on the streets of the town Phoba, a human town that borders the Kraeka of the neutral continent Ibon. The air is sullen and heavy with fear, such as the nature of the people in this town. There’s always blame for the hardships of the citizens here with fingers pointed at those demons residing in the continent. Outsiders are usually shunned or refused, but there are the few exceptions. However, today the townsfolk are ever more watchful than normal. A previous resident has returned to her family from across the world and had brought a very unusual person with her. Everywhere the two went over the course of a week or two the town kept a silent watch over them. Eventually, they picked a day of discussion. A day with an important decision in fear over the abnormality of the newcomer in town.


“Oi Maya! Be more careful while you eat!”


A gentle hand wipes the cheek of a girl named Maya. She brings the bangs of her violet hair back over the ear and laughs coyly, her eyes sparkling to the same color as her hair.


“Sorry Megumi, it’s just the food your mother makes is way too good,” Maya exclaims taking another bite of a specialty melt of this town. “Besides you have food all over your face too you know!”


Maya’s hand reaches out to the other face that belongs to Megumi and swipes a bit of cheese off her face. At this Megumi’s eyes quickly hide behind the bangs of her light-brown hair in immediate shyness.


“Gah! Geez, Maya!”


Maya Nephim and Megumi Nen, two girls currently in the house of Megumi’s parents just in the outskirts of the town Phoba, have been spending their leave from their unit in the Hunters back on the continent of Erocia. The long trip they had between the continents was thankfully shortened in part to the Nen family being renowned engineers and leaders on Aura-Technology Manipulation, a new science that is still being developed which uses the Aura inside of everything as a source of power for large mechanical technology. With that being the case transport flight vehicles give special favor to the Nen family and their guests. Their family may be well renowned and well off in terms of monetary surplus, but they live humbly with just a simple 2 story house. They’ve spent several weeks of their vacation here, hanging around town and helping Megumi’s family with things on the property and workshop.


“My my, with how close you two are it’s already like you’re married into the family Maya!” A soothing voice comes from the doorway of the dining room.
It was Megumi’s mother standing there, holding her hand over her mouth with a mischievous grin.


“You two are going to be the end of my heart,” Megumi mumbles, her face pressing into her hands as the other two laughs.


The mother turns to go about her business outside of the dining room and leaves the two girls alone. Megumi is trying desperately to hide behind her hair, though at only the length of her chin she can only hide her face with her bangs. Maya, toy-fully playing with her long hair, is enjoying the cooking of Mrs. Nen thoroughly. Finishing off the meal she rests her head on her hands, grinning over to the other.


“I’m really glad we came out here for our leave Megumi,” She beams. “I don’t really have any family to return to or anything else to do with weeks of free time, so this has been very enjoyable for me.”


Megumi comes out of her shell of embarrassment to look at her friend. “I’m just as happy about bringing you, Maya! It feels great to get away from the medic bays at work. Though...I’m worried about something.” She looks out of the window to her left.


“Worried?” Maya was puzzled. “Why would you be worried?”


Maya hands her plate to Mrs. Nen, who had come back to collect the dirty dishes. She carried them back to the kitchen humming a tune to herself. Megumi had a complicated look that quickly changed to a smile when she looked over at Maya.


“Oh, nothing really. Maybe just a little paranoid in this town is all.” She tries to laugh off the worry.


A knock at the doorway to the dining room is heard with a man in grease-covered overalls standing there.“Paranoid? You’re starting to sound like the rest of the town Megumi.” Sullenly he said with a tired expression. Taking off his shoes he sets them by the doorway with a sigh.


“Oh welcome home pops.”
“Yeah welcome home.” The girls chimed.


“Has it been rough so far today at the workshop?” Megumi inquired while leaning on a hand.


“Eh? Ah yeah,” He waves it away with his hand and a yawn. “Just the townsfolk being the citizens of Phoba is all. They’re really high strung recently over something.”
He turns his direction toward the kitchen. “HONEEY~ Is there anything I can eat? I need to be back down at the workshop soon.” The energy seeming to have returned to him he bounces into the kitchen.

“Ah~ Darling there are guests~”


The two girls laugh over the adults' obvious flirtation. This was the way they always were, a happy and carefree family. Mr. Nen takes a quick step back out of the kitchen.


“I hear you laughing. Don’t you worry you’ll be just like this someday.” He says with an intense expression.


“Roger that pops! I’ll do my best for Megumi’s sake!” Maya salutes the man seriously.


“MAYA!” She was trying desperately to contain her embarrassment.


“Then I entrust my daughter to you dearest Maya!” Bowing gracefully as he said that and receiving blows from objects thrown by Megumi. He stands up and has a more serious expression. “Before I forget I need some help later back at the workshop. I was going to ask both of you to come along but I’m afraid I have to ask Megumi to go to the town meeting in my stead.”


Megumi tries to straighten herself up with a light laugh. “I understand dad. It is a season where the business is swamped after all.” She calmly speaks, showing this situation happens a lot.


“But,” Maya speaks up, “what am I going to do without my darling Megumi?”


“Fueh?!” Megumi flinches from her hands being suddenly clasped, her father laughing to the side. “I-I’m sure you’ll be fine Maya,” she tries to regain some composure while speaking. “I just have to go to this meeting and meet up with you guys at the workshop is all. D-don’t worry.”


The stare between the two shared an intimate silence before Maya broke it with a warm smile. “If darling says so, then it can’t be helped.”


“Geez, Maya~” Megumi pouts, still red. That smile could melt a glacier.


“I appreciate the help, Maya.” He bows. “I’ll go ahead and head down there, so you two can leave a bit later alright?”


“Dear~ I have your food nice and prepared!” Mrs. Nen calls from the kitchen, causing the Mr. to look over gleefully.


“That’s my cue girls, time for me to head on out,” exclaiming when walking through the door to the kitchen. “I’m off then!”


From the hallway came the sound of whistling is cut off by the door closing with a slam. Maya stretches in her chair, clearly satisfied from the earlier food. Standing up she walks to the window to see Mr. Nen on his way back to work. She turns suddenly over to Megumi beaming warmly.


“So my darling little Lop, what’s the story about that meeting?” She leans forward closer to Megumi’s face.


“L-Lop??!”

Megumi, who was still red from before, is now hard to recognize how deep the red is. Maya pats her head, receiving a pout from Megumi behind her bangs.


“W-Well...” She clears her throat. “Our town likes to have somewhat mandatory meetings on matters concerning what actions they want to take in certain matters. They’re invite based, kinda like Erocia’s Judge system. Except that’s where the similarities fall short as our meetings can be over any little thing and not necessarily about something as important as like a law per se.”


“What happens if you don’t go then?”


“Then you have to find a replacement. Generally, it’s just highly frowned upon though, as they don’t keep track. However, going can make a difference of what was decided.”


“Ooh,” a monotone voice escapes Maya’s lips, “alright then. Then we should head down soon right my Lop?”


Maya skips by Megumi while laughing and is shoved lightly, followed by a “Geeez~“. Megumi turned to yell out to Maya as she was leaving the room.


“Oi! Be sure to wear something you don’t want to be ruined by oil!” She stands up to also go get ready, still pouting. “Idiot. So embarrassing.”


The two prepare to get ready to make the trek further into town, umbrellas in hand and raincoats over their clothes. They leave a little later than intended thanks to the unpredictable storm overhead. Once at Maya’s destination of the workshop halfway into town the two parted ways with a hug and wave so that Megumi could head on further to the meeting. The taps of the rain on Megumi’s umbrella did nothing to help the growing anxiety inside of her. The clouds overcasting her happiness made her dread the upcoming meeting within the town.

 



Outside of a warehouse in the center of the city Phoba, the downpour continues on top of the people that had gathered at its door. This warehouse, in particular, is used by the Town Hall for large town meetings between the people. Typically the town meetings are not held often, as they are generally on the whims of the City Council. However when they are held the Council sends out invitations at random for votes to be held. It was a simple system with a lot of flaws, but it was generally fair with most major decisions that concerned the citizens here.


The large doors of the warehouse slid open with a groan to allow the people inside and out of the rain. The topic of the meeting is never spoken beforehand, yet everyone’s faces shared the same emotion knowing what was brought to attention today. As the warehouse had been redesigned to hold a lot of people in a visible manner, they filed in row by row in a raised platform pattern with lower seats near the center that raise the further from the center you get. These seats were arranged looking towards the center in a hexagonal fashion with breaks in between so that each face of the hexagon is separated. The center platform is also slightly raised, though not to the extent of the seats, and shaped in the same fashion as the stands. On it there was a ring of desks with mics and chairs to accompany it, with each chair positioned to look towards the crowd. Everyone in the raised seats also has mics, this is to promote actual discussion between everyone present. Out of the crowd, six individuals walked to the center platform. The ones walking there included the Mayor, Mayor’s Assistant, Treasurer, Planner, Representative, and the Defense Chief. This makes up the City Council members as they take a seat in the chairs to face the crowd around them. Mere moments and everyone finally settles down with most seats filled save the few from late or no-shows. The murmurs slowly died as the mayor cleared his throat.


“I hope everyone has settled calmly for today’s meeting.” He pans the room with his eyes, hidden by small circular glasses. “Judging by everyone’s looks we all have the same mind on today’s current agenda. That’s good as this will take less time to explain. A current visitor of our town has many qualities of what we believe to be, as is written by the tradition of our town, a potential Demon. The one is known to us as Maya Nephim, who is here on a trip with her friend and daughter of the Nen scientist. I would like everyone to discuss the possibilities of what we may have here.”


The room erupts in conversation. Most are ramblings about how inhuman and different the person mentioned is.


“Have you seen her hair?! How is that color even possible?” A sea of brown and black haired citizens nod in agreement.


“I can’t even stand watching her sip soup. Blasphemy! Who raised her?”


The Defense Chief clears his throat and sits upright, gathering the crowds' attention. “This discussion is a serious matter, so please calm yourself. We need to discuss things about her in nature and go over what we feel is a reason to even believe that she could be a demon at all, not her eating habits!”


“There’s no way she’s human at all!” A member of the crowd is standing up, attracting attention. “She has no known family that exists with her name! Hair that defies what we know as human biology. Even her eyes are unnatural when she looks at you!”


Once again the room is in chaos throwing out different trivialities that make her different than the general public in Phoba. The Council all sit quietly and attentively, listening in detail to the crowd’s displeasure and opinions. Through the voices it could be heard a lot of differences on how to deal with the situation, the ‘what-ifs’, and if she was a demon or human, to begin with. They were united, however, on one thing. Maya felt like a threat to their way of life somehow. The Mayor’s Assistant straightens herself up and is next to clear her throat, brushing back sun-kissed blonde hair.


“We’ve heard concerns on what makes her not human, however what about the opposite? Any human positive comments on her?”


The room is filled only with low cowardly murmuring, not one soul wanting to reveal even the smallest good.


“Well... she’s friendly and responds to everyone in a kind, formal manner.” A young boy finally speaks up to stop the crowds' mumbles.


“Too friendly I’d say,” A middle-aged woman sneers at the boy with honest disgust, ” especially towards the Nen families daughter! Close friend? HAH! Seems the girl wants more out of a pure, honest woman like Megumi.”


“Yeah who else but a Demon would seek out the heart of another young maiden in open public as she does?”


The situation erupts into a moral argument on what’s deemed friendly or immoral to a pure girls heart. A few members of the Council show annoyance to where the discussion has gone. The Planner stands up abruptly.


“SILENCE! Do you people seriously hear yourselves right now?” The crowd around him dimmed in noise till silent. Mixed reactions of concern towards fellows around them and looking down in guilt. “Now I want everyone to calmly tell me why she is too friendly and why that deems her as a Demon ’cause I find that as a worthless reason to pin them as some horrible person for being friendly." He slowly sits back down with a scowl as the room fills with a buzz of conversation. One old lady stands up, supporters nearby helping her.


“Alright, youngins settle down. Maya has come into this town with not one grudge against anyone here and is nothing but outright helpful. Yet all of you are wanting to focus on her relationship with her only actual friend in the place?” The lady slowly turns her head around the room and softly whispers, “Shame on you all. I can’t count how many times she has helped me out and was always just happening by on an errand for someone else. Out of her way for me! Sure her looks are abnormal but I've lived a long... long time and have met many kinds of demons, none of which even look remotely close to that! How baseless are you people?”


She sits back down with some assistance giving a quick “harrumph” towards the crowd. The air gets heavy in the silence that follows, thick with guilty anger and resentment. The planner perks up after the old lady's quick speech.


“Now there are some really good points there. I personally also can’t see how her kindness can be seen as anything but pure, Naive even! Personally, without her, I wouldn’t have been able to get certain errands done for the festival last month. I can’t mention how pressured I was until she offered help, really a lifesaver in this town.” Another council member catches his eyes, and he turns to her. “Something wrong Treasurer?”


The Treasurer looked downright furious, shooting a gaze at the Planner to make him flinch. The bobs of her hair bob as she stands up.


“Valid points yes, especially the part based on her looks. However, I have an infuriating problem rattling my old head. That is to say, looks don’t really matter too much if one was either the mythical Human variety of those Demons or a Chaos Demon.”


Fear sweeps through the crowd. Panic even as the discussion bounces around about what that means.


“What did she mean by Human or Chaos demon?”

“How should I know I thought there were only like 2 kinds!”

“I’ve never heard of these kinds either! They’re not in any books I have ever read!”

The treasurer slams her fist on the counter the council is sitting at. “LIBRARIAN. You of all people have a better answer on this here. I know those demons exist, so please educate these possibilities to us would you?”

Eyes drift quickly over to the town librarian, a small frail girl wearing a bun. Most of the surrounding crowd sighed in relief that she was lucky enough to be picked for the meeting.

“W-why is the pressure always on me when I make it to these meetings?” She was nervous and young. “I’ll t-try to answer the best I can.”
She clears her throat. “For those who don’t remember our people’s history the Human Demons, or Human Kraeka, are our ancient ancestors. They are a breed that we look exactly like, and thus our people have named them after us, showing the connection between our lineage. Their name in their language is nowhere close to anything related to what we call them. Uh...” Glancing around she tugs on the collar of her blouse, “They uh helped us in the great war thousands of years ago, though most of them were driven to extinction by the other species of demons. Therefore they would be allied to us Humans so I don’t... see a reason why that’s...” Her voice trailing off she barely makes out the word “Bad” to be audible. The air lightens, the mood not as stiff from fear with at least something trying not to harm a poor girls reputation.

“What about Chaos Demons? What’s special about them to be mentioned by the Treasurer?”

“Uh....” Nervous again, the librarian clears her throat. “Well to be completely honest.. Not too much is known about that species. I-I know only a few facts though I just have to remember..”

The crowd starts murmuring again, impatient to know anything.

“Ah.. ok I remember. There isn’t very much information on them as they normally don’t interact with either society. No one has ever seen one as...well… they can’t. Chaos Kraeka kind of have no actual...uh,” she seems scared to continue, “form?” The librarian flinches in preparation.

Immediate panic in the room. Some people stand up shouting at others, while another portion has started their own silent prayers balled up in fear. At this point, even the council has broken out of character and discussing in fear with the surrounding townsfolk.

“Uh... e-everyone..” She isn’t audible to the crowd, even with the mic. “EVERYONE I WASN’T F-FINISHED”

Abrupt silence.

“T-thank you...” Breathing deeper she continues. “There are not many of this kind of Kraeka around according to their Council's census and each of them is individually picky on what form they even take b-based on their psychological traits.”

A pause before someone stands up in the crowd.

“What do you mean by... psychological traits?”

“I mean that uh... each one has a mental illness and they choose their form based on that alone. They could have a human, Kraeka, or even a tree for a form. S-so I actually believe that... uh, Maya could be one of these... demons... and while her trait would mean she is friendly that means she also isn’t uh...” She gulps. “sane..mentally.” She couldn’t even add how that wasn’t a bad thing before the crowd was ignoring her through a mass hysterical discussion.

“So that time she helped me fix my bike?”

“She probably has abandonment issues and needs to be noticed.”

“What a sick reason to be friendly.”

“Yeah, now I pity her. I would hate to be insane and need to be friendly all the time.”

“I’m more disgusted. What an attention whore. The more I hear of this the more I’m hearing that she’s a demon that needs to go.”

The discussion is becoming heated and one-sided again. What was once peaceful niceties have now been turned around to negative disdain. Even the old woman was looking down, tears in her eyes in disbelief that Maya was being selfless. The librarian tries to settle the people down, saying to take what she said with a grain of salt, but it was far too late. The ignorant party took what little information she had given and have made a horrendous unanimous decision on their view of Maya Nephim.
During the state of the crowd, the inner circle of the City Council was also in a locked discussion. They were also in a unified decision, though it wasn’t anywhere near the same as the now rampant crowd. They couldn’t prove Maya to be a Demon or not, especially if the chance of the mythical Chaos Demon even existed it posed no real threat to the town.

“What do you suppose we do mayor?” The treasurer’s voice cracked. She’s showing obvious disdain towards her own curiosity, having no real problem with Maya to begin with.
The mayor clears his throat with the pressure on him.

“W-well we have to take a vote it would seem.” His eyes cast regrettably to the people around the council members. “I think we all know where this is going now.”

All council eyes are downcast, ears out listening to the rantings of a maddened hive. Sullenly the lone figure of the Mayor stands up, slowly followed by the council members around him.

“I need everyone’s attention,” spoken to the crowd around him, the Mayor stares them all down while the buzz dies down, “it is now time to make our decision.”

A pause, like-minded anticipation pushing to the center with their stares.

“Calmly I will offer a few options on what we will do.” He pulls out a device from his stack of papers brought in with him. “As per usual I will use this device to track the number of votes per option. I want you to be honest and answer correctly. If this is your first time here in the Town Meeting there is a button near your mic to press for your vote. You do not need to press it more than once, and to prevent miscalled votes the button has a safety mechanism to only track your vote once.” He puts the device down in front of him. “I will say the options once before voting, and then I will say them again. As I say them again that is when you will vote.”

He turns to see them all eye to eye with a heavy heart.

“First option; Maya is left alone. There is nothing wrong with her, therefore she lives happily within our borders.”

A few chuckles from the crowd. The mayor’s eyes start to water up.

“The second option,” He pauses, “We banish Maya for fear of a Demon in our midst. Our more… traditional method.” He sighs. “Third option-..” You could clearly hear the mayor sniffling, tears rolling down his cheeks. “Third option; A Demon Hunt. Used only as traditional means of ridding a harmful being forever.”
He mouths the words no and please, inaudible as the crowd buzzes and prepares to cast their vote.

The entire council is crying.

 


 

 

Megumi dashes under an awning outside a store for cover from the now pouring rain, her umbrella no longer of any protective use. Lowered visibility and now water coming down so fast you could practically go for a swim, she decides to wait it out for a moment. Knowing how the townspeople usually take a long time for debate and she is only about a 10 minute run away. Shaking the rain off her umbrella and looking around at the shop she stopped at to find it was a humble flower store. Unable to really see inside from the store being closed for the town meeting Megumi couldn’t get a great look at whatever flower was popular this season. Before turning around a flash of lightning in the distance shed a little light on the insides of the shop, revealing a majority of white lilies and some chrysanthemums. It was an odd variety of arrangements to Megumi, it wasn’t a season known for burials and the town is fairly healthy from the wealth her family brings the town through their business. The pounding of the rain onto the awning she was under had lessened, signaling she needed to press forward or otherwise be late for whatever the meeting is about. Reluctantly she pulls from her intrigue of the flowers and opens her umbrella back out into the continued storm.

The roads and buildings on this side of town are fairly tightly knit, unlike the open fields near her home. The walk from the flower shop to the Hall is mostly downhill and brings dread to Megumi’s mind of the future uphill climb back out of town. She tries to watch her step from the little rivers flowing from each side path onto the street to no avail, glad she thought to bring some rain boots. Here and there she passed people by who didn’t go to the meeting, greeting them and telling them she needs to hurry for she’s late after the long walk. She’s also oblivious to the faces of worry all of them share when she turns back towards her goal. Rounding one more curve the warehouse used as the meeting place for the City Council comes into full view and Megumi sighs in relief that her trip is half over. The crowd outside glance away as she dashes for the doors.

 


 

“Down with the Demon!” These words bounce off the of the walls inside the warehouse and repeat out of the mouths of the citizens of Phoba. They all awaited the count of the traditional votes very eagerly. The council in the middle, however, was hesitating.

“Do I even need to read these votes in front of me? The sickening noise you all are making is giving me a clear answer as it is.” The mayor is inaudible to the crowd in his tears. “Must we torture this process more?”

The Treasurer places her hand on his shoulder. “Let’s just get it over with. It’s all my fault for digging deeper into it, I should have let it go.” Her hand shivers, obvious she’s holding back more tears.

The mayor goes to object, then gives in to the process by standing up slowly. The crowd roars out with anticipation as they were finally getting what they want. He clears his throat.

“I stand to read the final caste votes for this meeting concerning the person that goes by the name Maya Nephim. The votes in front of me were in question as to if we believe she is a demon and if so how we would take action in centuries of tradition.” He pauses to pinch the bridge of his nose and sigh after saying that sentence and then regains composure. “The final vote is 135 to 8 in favor of… in favor of the fear that she is a danger to our ways and to humans and must be rid of…"

His voice trails off. His eyes water once more as his gaze is fixated on something. The meeting quiets down from its previous excitement in confusion, mumbling to themselves briefly. The sound of doors slamming shut draws everyone’s attention to the entrance of the room. “M-Megumi.”

Megumi was appalled. Disgusted. Hurt. She couldn’t name all the emotions that she was experiencing but she felt one really strongly. Fear. She had come into the meeting room as the Mayor had stood up to announce the vote and the reason for it.

“Megumi dear why are you here? Where is your father?”

“He… He’s in his work-”

“Why should we care about his whereabouts where’s you’re best friend?!” She’s cut off from an excited male in the crowd with people around him also getting pumped.

“Down with the Demon!” The chants start back up again getting far louder than they were earlier.

The City Council members try their best to quiet them but it’s pointless to the fanatical chanting. Megumi looked taken aback as she looked around herself, faces throwing blind mistrust that she had known all her life. Thunder crashes from the outside storm and snaps her awake from her thoughts. She charges to the center with screaming frustration and tackles the mayor.

“HOW COULD YOU LET THIS HAPPEN? WHY EVEN HOLD THIS MEETING!” She’s swinging wildly at him but through her frustrated emotions, her body seems to prevent her from doing any real harm to him.

“I was powerless to do anything other than my job Megumi.” His words are barely heard over the crowd. “The meeting was called so it was held. It was held and there had to be a vote so we gave the traditional options.” The frustrations are also evident on the Mayor's face and the rest of the council around the two. “I was raised in this town with the belief that our traditions were made to protect our colony town from the Demon colonies surrounding it. Our tradition was made law based on that principle. What are we even ‘protecting’ our self from if we end up killing each other in some baseless fear of the unknown?!”

“Megumi you still have time to get to her, or rather could be quickly running out of time.” She stops glaring at the Mayor to look up at the Defense Chief as he speaks to her.

“What do you mean?” Her words barely croak out.

“The meeting hasn’t concluded yet. Your entrance has delayed the ending of the meeting. However, the rest of the town has probably been notified by the signs built to show the decision of the meeting. They’re probably out there on a Demon Hunt and I’m afraid your friend is in very real danger.” The Assistant pulls Megumi to her feet. “We did what we could but were held down by tradition and law. We can only do our job. You, however, can go and try to stop this.”

Megumi looks around at all of the council members, turns and dashes out. She doesn’t look back. Not to acknowledge the crowd. Not to see the council go back to what they have to do.

 



Thunder claps from the sky above causing Maya to drop her socket wrench with a small shriek. With a deep breath before picking it up she furrows her brow. It wasn’t supposed to storm today, picking the wrench up with these thoughts, really unusual for the weather forecast to be wrong. She puts the socket wrench back onto the bolt she was fastening and gives it a sharp twist to tighten it more.

“You know Maya, you girls are the only ones I can trust to even touch these vehicles.” A voice echoes down to her from an upper level in the hangar she was helping Megumi’s Father. “Government gave you good mechanical experience. Real proud of you girls.”

Maya gives a quick smirk before finding another loose bolt to tighten down. “The praise is more deserving of your daughter Mr. Nen. Without her, we wouldn’t have single manned vehicles or have an understanding as to why a group of humans can band their auras together to create a more powerful one.” She wipes away some grime off her hands with a nearby towel. “I… I also wouldn’t have found my calling in life if we hadn’t met. Megumi makes up the Maya I’d say.” She glances around shyly for a brief moment, “Wow I say things like that all the time in her presence but I never realized how embarrassing that is.”

Mr.Nen chuckles as he climbs down a ladder. “I’m sure Megumi feels exactly the same way about you Maya, embarrassment and all.”

“Ah if only it were so sir,” she leans her head into her hand as sighs, “I’m afraid the princess of mine who rescued my life will never realize the love I share.”

A steel pang signaled that the storm above was finally setting siege to the hangar with rain, causing the two to look up at the roof. The wind had picked up along with the lightning and thunder to make a dull gloom of what was once a simple midday drizzle. Mr.Nen hustled to the entrance where gears for the hanger door were and touched what looks like an orb off to its side. He concentrated for a moment to let his aura pour from the orb and into the complicated gear system, activating their movement and slowly shutting the large hangar doors. A metallic twang rumbled as the doors finally connected and locked shut tight to keep the incoming storm out.

“Thunderstorms are really rare in these parts…” He mumbles to himself as he removes his hand from the orb. “which is why I had set up this workshop here in the first place. Well, Maya,” he turns to her, “we might have to call it today. Airship hangars tend to be lightning rods and I’m not endangering us to a freak storm.”

“Yeah, I’m not a big fan of frizzy shocked hair” Maya chuckles while cleaning up and re-organizing her tools. “Besides I want to catch Megumi on the way back and hope we can duck into a cafe or something.”

Mr. Nen smiles, “Yeah those town meetings aren’t all that pleasant to be in. There’s a reason this colony town was called Phoba and if you never believed those stories then you would just have to experience it yourself.” His smile fades for only a moment before turning back to Maya. “Now go on then I’ll handle the cleanup here. Don’t need you to miss each other by chance and getting soaked and lonely.”

Her face grows a little pinker, high contrast to her pale complexion, and a wide smile crosses her face before she bows formally. “At once sir. I shall not let her be without her knight for any longer.”

They both give a hearty laugh as she heads for an exit to the hanger, remembering at the last second to at least take a wide-brimmed wooden umbrella. She opened the door, greeting the unwelcome rain slamming itself at the walls trying to get in, opened up her umbrella and closed the door behind her. Despite the storm, she was in high spirits thinking about what kind of cafe to try to duck into once she finds Megumi. She starts heading across the field towards the road, taking in the surrounding scenery of Phoba in the distance. The mountainous region hugs the storm clouds closely, outlining the snowed caps in the distance past the town. Around the town there were rolling hills reaching out to the yellowing sky, illuminated from the occasional lightning. The rain was no longer cold like it was earlier in the day, now it was almost tropical in temperature, though that didn’t stop the wind chill from giving Maya an occasional shiver down her spine. She deeply inhales the tropic air she’s grown up in from her early years and exhales slowly, tasting the mixed feelings of the weather. It tugs at her distant memories, a time from when she had first met Megumi after joining the Demon Hunter ranks. She briefly looks back at the hangar behind her as a blanket of rain was slammed across the arched roofing. It was here Maya was sent for mechanic training, knowing absolutely nothing about its processes. Continuing on her way with new enthusiasm brightened by the flashes from the sky’s downpour.

 



Frantic footsteps reach Megumi’s ears. Were they her own? It didn’t matter to her anymore. Maya wasn’t down Main. Not down Lea street nor the off-roads from that. Not the park or that cafe with summertime crepes. The town felt like it was shifting, spiraling in her own vision and from the people around moving out of the way. All of their eyes were a blur of pity. Pity for what? Anger welled up inside inflaming the panic. Her eyes dashed wildly, blurring from running and moving her head too fast. Almost falling over she catches her hands on her knees while panting from her marathon. A glimpse of her surroundings told her she was near the flower shop again, the one with the white lilies and chrysanthemums. A slow realization swelled up inside of her. Why hadn’t she seen it sooner? This is the town Phoba, a place of traditional city-wide demon hunts. The mothers on the street were starting to usher children into their homes. Shutters were closing on shops and lights dimming out. A chill went down Megumi’s mind as she started hearing the chants in the distant.

“Down with the Demon! Down with the Demon!” They were faint but clear. They sound brave but by the numbers they were scared.

“Down… with the demons…” Megumi straightened up, murmuring their chant but for different reasons.

Centuries of this tradition branding the Kraeka as some evil demon looking out to slaughter everyone in a blink but only out of fear and lack of understanding. More anger seethed from within to bring out another surge of energy for Megumi.

“Down with the Demon!” Megumi was once again dashing madly trying to outrun the chant. It came from behind, the sides, in front and echoing all the while in the town’s madness. This was a real evil. All the time in the force has brought her face to face with those of the other kin. She’s only ever fought thugs who didn’t respect the authority of the treaties, none of them otherwise were any less different than a human.

“DOWN WITH THE DEMON!”

Megumi’s mind echoed the chant louder to herself but targeting the crowds running through the streets elsewhere. They were a real evil. If not for a colony this was unlawful. Protected by international law where the mainland was to not interfere with neutral colony conflicts. Anxiety built up pulsing blood into her head for a small headache when she checks the last shop down a street for any sign of Maya. She had no idea if Maya was even in town yet or still with her Pa. She whips around behind her to stare at the town center in the distance. Maybe she had gone there first? Why was she acting so stupid? Panic has numbed her legs as they kept pumping out the force of her running. All she’s ever wanted to do was protect. Never did she expect to have to from her own people. Maya was the first real friend she had within the mechanic specialists and only because she trained her first hand. Megumi found out firsthand that Maya was not only good at working with her earth auras on mechanical vehicles but also with healing auras. Her specialty was with injuries dealt from being in the mechanized vehicles during the chance errors in builds, and so they became a leading team in their respective fields. The vision before her blurred almost cause her to fall over on some loose bricks on the road. The chanting had gotten quieter but it was still audible through the echoes down the empty roads. Clearing her eyes she turned down the last stretch towards the town center and as she did so her breathing almost immediately left her again.

“Maya!” Her chest pumped as so her legs towards a girl down the road with a wooden umbrella.

“M-Megumi? Why are you coming fr-” Maya’s words were stopped as Megumi slams into an embrace with her and almost dropping her umbrella. Megumi was drenched, seeming to have forgotten the downpour for some reason or another.

“I’m just so glad I found you first.” She squeezed harder on Maya, sobbing into her chest. “We- We need to get you out of here," she pauses between a few words with a sniffle, “The town. Phoba is horrid-. The decision they made was just-.” Megumi’s words seemed to catch in her throat. Megumi lets go of her hold on Maya stepping away for a brief moment. “Maya they think you’re some demo-”.

A metallic noise rings out loudly in Megumi's ears.

“MAYA!!”

Maya’s purple eyes welled up, looking down at her chest where a bolt had landed firmly. She couldn’t bring words to her open mouth as the shock caught her only in a momentary gasp. Her hands shakily went up to it, her footwork staggering a little. Megumi rushed over to catch her fall, keeping her still as the body shivered violently from the shock of pain or the lack of oxygen now coming from her lungs. She glanced back from where the cross-bolt had come but the street had been empty except for the echoes from a distant crowd. A moment passed before you could hear cheering in the distance. A sickening cheer on twisted beliefs only brought more pain to Megumi as she turned back towards Maya. She tried to slowly ease her down but it was hard from Maya’s coughing fits. A pair of broken eyes looked up at Megumi.

“H-hey” A blood-soaked cough stopped her. Thunder rumbled stronger in the distance as the heavier part of the storm was catching up to the town. “There’s a mysterious t-thunderstorm today ya know?” Maya made out what little of a smile she could before the pain and shock took back over.

“Maya. Maya no ple- please no no no no no no.” Megumi was gripped Maya’s hand tightly, pressing it up to her. “Save your breath, please. Focus on your aura you can get through this. I’ve seen you take hits before! Maya please, no, not over something like this. Not because of my hometown...I-I could never forgive myself.” Salty tears were flowing freely, overtaking the rain on her face and shining in the lightning flashes.

“Megumi your… belief in my ability is appreciated but-” She grunts in pain. “T-they tipped it with poison. I’m not able to do anything. I’m not... I’m not that good.” A laugh turns deadlier, her body rejecting air.

“Maya no I- I can’t lose you. What would I tell Officer Kazashi back on the mainland? I-” Megumi’s words had given up on her. She held Maya’s hand close to her forehead, hanging her head down in intense sobs. Of all the things she would fail at this was not the one she wanted to see.

“Megumi…” Barely a whisper, Maya put her hand to Megumi’s face. She broke into a smile, a kind of smile to melt any ice in the world. “My lovely Lop. Cherish me as I cherished you. That’s… that’s all I can ask for.” Maya closed her eyes for only a moment before gazing back up into Megumi’s tears. Despite the glossiness, the vibrant purples still made it intense. “Megumi I- I will always… lov-...”

Maya’s hand lost the firmness of the touch it had on Megumi’s face. She pressed it firmly against her cheek, her throat sore from tightening up. They only knew each other for about nine years and yet just that quickly… she was simply no more. Megumi sat like this in the rain, not bothering to even pick up the umbrella to cover herself. A few hours pass by, some of the townsfolk getting curious as to if it was over as the chanting had finally died off. At first, the closest people coming out of their homes were appalled and shocked, not realizing the deed was done so close to their own homes. They mostly glanced, never helping or caring otherwise. None of the children occupied the center like they usually would, as probably their parents ushered them to play somewhere else for an obvious reason. If anything there was the occasional passerby who brought over lilies or chrysanthemum and laid it at Maya’s side. All hesitant to do it not knowing how the guardian over the body would react, but Megumi just quietly sobbed to herself. A few more hours later Megumi finally looked up to see her surroundings. She was in the town square of Phoba, though as far as she was concerned it looked like an executioners stall.

The rain had washed the surrounding stone of the red it had been stained in and also had left a chill in Megumi. She paid it no heed as she kept scanning her surroundings. The sunset had brought twilight shadows across the square, casting darkness from the buildings to be obstacles for the suns rays. Puddles reflected a sky that no longer held the yellow of a storm and instead of the vibrancy of reds and violets. She gently put Maya’s body onto the ground and started to pick up the flowers a few brave people had left for their sympathy. It wasn’t worth much to ease Megumi’s anger so it was a bittersweet gesture. Sighing heavily she puts the flowers on top of Maya’s stomach, at least some of them cared enough and for what it’s worth they at least tried. It’s not the entire towns fault but instead the problem of something deeper within the towns societal norms that Megumi loathed. It had been several hours now with Megumi grieving next to her dear friend. She was soaked despite the storm had left two hours ago, her clothes ruined from holding onto Maya for so long. All of the council members had found her weeping there and, with sorrowful expressions, partook in the empty silent sobbing. Megumi allowed them to grieve as they deserved to at least for also having to deal with a broken system. A few apologized specifically to Megumi for asking too many questions for a fair meeting on both sides but she just shook her head and accepted.

“You expected more out of them and for a moment forgot where the town was located.” A pitiful shaken laugh comes out of Megumi as she sniffs once to grab more air. “Phoba was a poor choice of vacation.”

This put a solemn silence over the Council with a truthful reminder to the towns name. After paying respects in their own way one by one they began to say a goodbye to head on about their way. Megumi only nodded, staring down in silence. The last one was the Mayor, who seemed to be hit the hardest emotionally out of the council.

“Your… parents don’t know yet from living at the edge of town. Right?”

He hadn’t spoken a single time since they had arrived. His only reaction from seeing the two was wide-eyed despair along with a silent ‘no’ from his mouth. He finally looks up at Megumi causing her to follow him and lock eyes. She simply shakes her head slightly and a small shrug followed.

“Then allow me to be the one to tell them. It’s at least my responsibility as the Mayor. She… was pretty much family for you guys. I,” He indulges himself in twiddling his thumb for a minor moment while pausing for words to form. He stops and looks back up to continue. “Please at least allow me that peace. I feel dreadful for this.”

His voice cracks again but doesn’t give into breaking, almost like it had settled on the edge and found a new home. Megumi got up silently to walk just a step or two over to the other side of Maya where the Mayor was.

“I give you that permission.” She wasn’t able to stay composed after actually speaking a word, her silence being a strong seal to what was thought to be a dry well in her eyes. She slams her head into his shoulder with loud shuddering sobs. The Mayor was shocked at first before realizing why she made her actions. He makes no motion to stop her or touch her head in comfort but instead just stands there looking into the sky.

“I can at least get a proper burial for her too. Edge of town near the Hangar of your family, with their permission of course.” The only reaction he gets is violent nods.

“Yes, please. She would have liked that. What side of the hangar?” She steps back with care for her friend.

“Towards the forest. Its legends will save people from going near it at the least. I’d… rather not want them interacting with it other than you and anyone you let know.” His tired, swollen eyes showed a hint of muddied resentment. “I… can help you carry her to him. She may have to be buried as is though, sorry for the rudeness of that act.”

“It will have to do. I want her buried before the town gathers hatred again.” Distant rumble can be heard again, a reminder that one rain leads to another when it cools near the mountains. Megumi mutters under her breath a swear. “There is an ugly reason of hurry there also.”

Mayor sighs a moment. “I agree. Then let’s be off as it’s a bit of a walk away.”

He gently gets down to pick Maya’s body up into his arms, doing his best to make it seem as graceful as possible for the man. Checking one more time that Megumi was alright enough to walk through town. They set a pace down the streets towards the West, as was where the Hanger stood away from town. Every now and then they would duck into an alley to cut through to a less populated street or to avoid certain shops. The Undertaker of the town happened to be along the way so they made a short, discreet stop to have someone help with the burial. The man in the shop was horrified once he learned what the earlier Town Meeting had been about, quickly becoming angered. He happened to have a coffin that could fit her in the back and was willing to offer his services for free to the Nen family for how atrociously the town has acted.

Small preparation afterward and the group disbanded from there. Megumi followed the Undertaker out to the Hangar for the burial of her closest comrade in the Hunters, while the Mayor went out to the Nen’s family house to be the bearer of grim news. A cooler rain started to vastly contrast the earlier storm, this time only having the occasional rumble in the far distance. It was a refreshing feel to have the air cool so fast and yet all it did was settle the mood in Megumi’s soul. She could only think of what to tell Rin, her Commanding Officer in the Hunters, on how exactly Maya had passed. Inside of her this anxiety built itself up to bring tears to her eyes once more but only getting that far.


 


The air now bleeds into your bones from a colder, more wintery rain. It brought relief only to those who had been working a long day today in the midst of the excitement of winter festivities. A girl of the Nen family is haunted by the very town she grew up in and their twisted forms of justice and refuses to return home during the holidays. Back into service on the main continent Erocia, she painstakingly spent her time dedicating research into how Aura is used to manipulate machinery of different makes for more medical use, rather than for the fighting they do with the occasional border skirmish against the distant Kraeka. Back on the continent Ibon, within the town known as Phoba, snow has piled up a few feet from a previous winter storm. It’s been almost six years since a taboo tragedy had been committed within this town that caused a large reformation of government organization and the removal of several centuries old laws. Outside of the town, towards the outskirts of a forest overseen by a large Hangar, were several different marked graves. In front of them, a man stood holding a sort of sack and shovel, all covered in frost. His clothes are worn down with a shaggy, frosted beard covering most of his face. For a moment, and only for that single moment, his figure seemed to distort into many different layers as if he’d been split into several other planes in the same spot. He shakes his head with a hand on his head and his body snaps back. He grabs his shovel and hovers on a grave that isn’t as extravagant as the others nearby, bringing its head to slam into the dirt. He grunts as his foot presses onto the blade of the tool to throw his weight into digging the earth, only stopping to glance at the headstone. There wasn’t much on it for there were only two words it read.


Maya Nephim.


Submitted: October 27, 2018

© Copyright 2021 CactusOasis. All rights reserved.

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