Malasin steps through the portal to find a lush paradise, but something is missing.
|After a flash of bright light, I stepped through the portal. I was a bit dazed and my eyes took a few seconds to adjust, but when I regained my bearings, I looked up and saw a world of endless green. The trees towered over me. Their branches blanketed the skies with leaves. I couldn’t see a sun above me. I couldn’t even see sky. Yet, a faint light seemed to radiate from the trees. At least the Mystics didn’t destroy this world yet.
“You...bastard.” I heard a weak voice behind me. I turned around and saw this strange green creature crawling toward me. Wearing what seemed like a crown of leaves, I struggled to distinguish him from the plant-flooded ground. Small twigs sprouted from his shoulders. I was half-tempted to pour water on him to see if he would grow taller. Is he this world’s version of us?
“You here to finish me off?” he asked. He had a defiance that told me that he would’ve attacked me on sight if he could, but he seemed resigned to his fate. His eyes strained in the face of my body’s yellow glow.
“I’m not here to kill you,” I assured him.
“Liar. You’re here to finish the job your gray cronies started when they came through your portal.” My gray cronies? They couldn’t even exist in our world without a mountain of lead robes to deflect our sunlight. I guess that’s why they had better luck wiping out this world’s people.
“This isn’t my portal,” I insisted. “I stole it from them after I drove them from my town.”
“I don’t believe you.” He was still on the ground, but he looked like he wanted to crush my head through sheer hatred. The flames of rage engulfed his ocean-blue eyes. Struggling to keep his head up, he labored through each breath. He wanted to end me. He wanted to make one of them suffer as much as they made him suffer. I don’t blame him. I imagine that’s how I looked when I led our militia against them.
“I don’t believe me either,” I finally replied. “But I can’t escape this nightmare. It must be real.”
“Then why are you here?” He began to unclench his teeth and relax his eyes.
“Those gray people you saw serve the Mystic Eye Society. They tried to take over my world. I heard that they were coming here.” I knew what he would say next, but I still hoped I was wrong.
“Well, they did come here, and they won,” he sighed. So take that sword you’ve got on your hip and put me out of my misery.” I should. He’s near death anyway, and he had to watch his entire people die in front of him. Giving him the sweet relief of death is the least I could do.
“No,” I decided. “You’re going to help me find the other survivors.”
“You think you’re some kind of hero?” he mocked sarcastically.
“Yes, I do. Now you can either help me find the rest of your people or sit there and die.” I thought the choice was obvious. Apparently, so did he.
“I’m gonna sit here and die.”
“Wrong answer,” I told him as I grabbed him by his shirt and threw him to his feet. “You’re going to help me look for survivors.” He stood with a wobbled hunch, with his barkskin legs barely able to support his frail body. He tilted his head downward as if he had neither the strength nor the desire to look upon the empty world the Mystics left for him. His tattered blue shirt and dirt-stained brown pants barely covered this broken shell of a man standing before me.
“What survivors?” he whimpered as he took a few steps away from me. “I spent the past three days looking for anyone. I just want to die and enjoy my resprouting.” He turned to me with a face that pleaded for mercy. Begging was his only option: he was too weak to attack me and too short to intimidate me.
“You think you’re some sort of chosen one?” I chided. “If you survived, then so did somebody else.” He stood a little straighter and broadened his shoulders. Still breathing heavily, he looked directly at me. Behind the strands of light brown hair hanging in front of his face, I could see a slight determination in his eyes.
“I didn’t kill your people,” I said, “but I know who did. I’m going to find them, and you’re going to help me.” This guy would be useless in a fight. My sword’s hilt has more muscle mass than his limp, scrawny arms. Yet, he had a fire inside him that nourished him. I could count on him to at least live. Besides, even though I stole this language-comprehension device from the Mystics, I still didn’t know any of his people’s customs. The last thing I need is to accidentally set anyone off.
“I hope you know what you’re doing.” His posture improved with each passing second. You could hardly tell that just moments ago he was crawling on the floor, ready to die.
“Nope, but I know they can be beaten, and that’s good enough for me.” I couldn’t help but wonder whether the Mystics were actually here. The trees stood in pristine condition, with not a corpse in sight. This picturesque landscape seemed untouched by anyone, let alone by a band of ravaging conquerors. I felt like I was in a painting.
“So who are you?” he asked.
“My name is Malasin,” I told him. “I’m a Luminan. I come from a world called Lumiria.”
“Do all your friends glow like that?”
“Yeah.” I looked at my arm to check my glow. I can’t rely on this world’s sun to restore my light, so I have to recharge myself artificially, at least until I can chop down some branches and punch a hole in the sky of foliage.
“I’m Arvin Bluestem,” he responded. I heard a confidence in his voice, as if he suddenly regained the will to live. We shook hands. He gave me a slight smirk and chuckled a bit. He had a devious look in his eyes.
“Alright,” I said. “Time to move out.” Where? Who knows.