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Characters:
Lunia Atalanta: A fire elemental human (flame eleman) working as a soldier with the Stendrion Army. She's 15 in this flashback. Main character of the story.
Homegoroshi: An elemental beast who takes the form of a wingless dragon capable of flight. He's capable of changing his size from a small lizard to a large dragon. Once a good friend of Lunia's father, he now serves as her guardian while she lives in Stendrion. Claims to have lived for hundreds of years.
Cheyenne: An illusionist with the ability to feel emotions. This takes place sometime before she's captured by Stendrion's leader.

Terms:
Illusionists: Monsters that feed on human souls (a fact intentionally left ambiguous in this chapter). They're an all-female race that doesn't reproduce. Their numbers have dwindled over the years, but because they haven't been wiped out, it's believed they're coming from somewhere. They're known to flock around a mysterious woods called the Enchanted Forest.
Elemen: Humans with elemental powers, based on a separate circulatory system in their bodies that produces a substance called liquid element. The types are Flame (fire), Lightning, Aqua (water), Wind, Garden (life/plants), and Light. Light elemen are given a mythological status and have long since been considered extinct. 
The World: Elemen and illusionists have only existed in this world for a few hundred years, after supposedly fleeing their previous world for reasons that have been lost to time. 
Stendrion: The main City of Flame where most Flame elemen live, located in a large crater in the middle of the Stendrion Desert. Ruled by a ruthless dictator, their society is very militaristic, where children as young as 5 are encouraged to begin military training as soon as their elemental abilities develop. 
Enchanted Forest: A dangerous forest on the edge of the Stendrion desert. Said to be the origin of the illusionists, and also rumored to be the point that connects their current world to their previous world. Protected by a Forest Guardian. None who enter ever return alive.

--

Black page with a single text bubble.
"I've always been alone."
 
A scene of people laying on the ground.
"After all, I'm..."
View of a hand holding something.
 
"I'm a monster."
Cheyenne staring up at the camera, cropped out on the side and eyes hidden, with a circle of bodies around her. She's frowning.
 
--Title page--
 
Lunia walking in a desert, looking up at the sky.
Lunia: ...there's really nothing out here in this desert.
But in any case...
Why did I have to bring you along?
Show Homegoroshi sitting on her shoulder.
 
Homegoroshi: I'm your guardian, aren't I? Besides, aren't I the one who brought you along? 
You wouldn't have been allowed on this mission in the first place without me.
You're too much of a flight risk.
Lunia:  Sigh...
 
Lunia: ...it really is just a desert. There's nothing as far as the eye can see. 
Homegoroshi: That's what you signed up for, isn't it? 
Lunia: Well... yeah. But I didn't actually expect it to be nothing. 
Missions this far outside of Stendrion are rare, you know? 
Who could possibly pass up an opportunity like this!
Focus on Homegoroshi.
Lunia: It's kinda suspicious. Clearly there's something out here they want me to find. 
But even still...
 
Lunia: Why can't they just tell me from the beginning!? 
I bet those bastards are having a real laugh back at HQ right now!
Sending me out into the desert like this...
Homegoroshi suddenly perks up.
 
Homegoroshi: Lunia. Look, over there. Can you feel it?
Lunia stops and looks, and a chill runs through her body.
Lunia: That's...
Zooms out and then zoom in, there's a girl standing in the middle of the desert.
Lunia: ...there's a girl out there!
 
Homegoroshi: Lunia, wait!
You know what she is, don't you?
Show Lunia, as flashback starts.
"You must always remember..."
 
(10)
 
"If you see a young girl in a strange place by herself, stay on guard."
"Chances are it's one of those monsters trying to fool you."
A commander walks past a standing line of teens in uniform, with a chalkboard in the background.
The commander stops.
 
"It's been more than 50 years since one of those monsters was seen near Stendrion, and that's a record we intend to keep."
"If you see one of these monsters, you are to eliminate it immediately."
"...sir? How will we recognize them. These monsters... if they're trying to trick us with their appearance, I mean."
"You won't. By the time you realize what it is, it'll have you in it's clutches. For the sake of the whole, it is better not to take chances."
The girl who asked the question looks visibly distressed. Lunia looks at her as she averts her gaze.
 
"Sir. Hypothetically speaking, if we did close enough to confirm it, what would that look like?"
"...."
Cut back to Lunia and Homegoroshi.
"They bring with them an aura of negativity. You'll break into a cold sweat and begin thinking dark and anxious thoughts."
"Images of your own, swift demise will fill your mind. The tension will be almost suffocating."
"But should you make it this far and somehow retain your wits about you, do not forget..."
 
The girl raises her head, revealing a blindfold over her eyes.
"Do not make eye contact, at any cost."
 
Lunia: ...it can't be. Here? An illusionist?
Homegoroshi: It's been 50 years since one was sighted near Stendrion, but they're more common than you might think. 
But it's rare seeing them outside the forest. How did this one make it so far?
The girl collapses, and Lunia jerks forward.
Lunia: Wha... what? It fell.
Homegoroshi: If it's made it this far in the desert, it must be getting weak. I imagine it's been awhile since it met with any other creatures.
 
They both exchange glances.
Lunia: ...we can't just leave it here.
Lunia starts to walk over.
Homegoroshi: My thoughts exactly. It would be best to deal with this swiftly.
And strike while it's still--
Lunia: Hey, you doing okay?
Homegoroshi: !?
Lunia: You know, it's not really as bad as they--
Homegoroshi suddenly clamps his claws over Lunia's eyes.
 
Lunia turns around, arms outstretched and yells in pain.
Lunia: Sonuva-- why!?
Homegoroshi: You idiot! Didn't you learn anything in field training!? You can't make eye contact!!
 
Lunia pries him off, looking angry as she holds him out with both arms. Cheyenne moves a little in the background.
Lunia: I wasn't making eye contact. It's got a mouthful of sand right now, what's the deal?
Homegoroshi: Those things are dangerous! 
What if it looked up? It's probably just waiting for your to put your guard down and--
Cheyenne: I am... all right.
 
Lunia and Homegoroshi both look over suddenly, then quickly look away, and then look back, eyes closed.
Homegoroshi: See, I told you. It looked right up.
Lunia: Yeah, and I saw you looking righ back. Now who's the idiot?
Cheyenne tilts her head.
 
Cheyenne: Though I am... quite thirsty. It has been some time since I entered the desert. I did not expect to be here as long as I have been.
Lunia: Oh! Uh... thirsty, huh? I think I have some water on me, hold on...
Homegoroshi: What are you doing!? Don't feed it! 
Lunia: What d'ya want me to do? I'm already over here, and it's not like we'd get far if we tried running now!
 
Lunia pulls out a bottle and hands it towards the girl, missing by a few feet.
Cheyenne tilts her head again, and crawls closer to grab the bottle.
Lunia: "I can feel her... getting closer. Is this the aura they were talking about?"
Cheyenne moves to grab the bottle.
Lunia: "It's not so bad--"
 
A strong chill runs through Lunia's body as her eyes shoot open, her mouth open in fear. 
She drops the bottle and recoils, hands over her head as she kneels in the sand.
Homegoroshi is dropped onto the ground.
Homegoroshi: O-Oof! Lunia!? Lunia, are you all right!?
 
Lunia: F-Fine!! Totally!!
Cheyenne picks up the bottle, holding it down in her lap and frowning.
Cheyenne: I... apologize. It would be for the best that you do not touch me, even indirectly.
Lunia slowly raises her head from the sand, keeping her eyes covered by her hands now.
Lunia: ...apologize?
Cheyenne takes a drink from the bottle.
 
A long drink.
It lasts the whole page as Lunia and Homegoroshi kind of stare without actually looking.
 
Cheyenne puts the bottle down and sighs.
Cheyenne: ...I do not know why you would aproach me of your own accord, but... thank you for the water.
Lunia: You're... welcome?
Cheyenne tilts her head again.
 
(25)
 
Cheyenne: You are... a flame eleman, yes?
Lunia: Th-That's right! So you better not try anything funny, got it!
Lunia isn't even facing Cheyenne when she yells this.
Homegoroshi: Gee, sounds like you really have the upper hand here.
Lunia: Shut it, you damned lizard...
 
Cheyenne sets the bottle down in front of Lunia with a sound, and then scoots back again.
Lunia, confused reaches out for and grabs the bottle.
Cheyenne: I have no intent to harm you. Rather, if you could point me in the direction of the forest, I will leave this desert of my own accord.
Lunia frowns, thinking.
Lunia: You're... you are one them, right? I mean, I've never seen one before, but the stories...
Cheyenne sits still, staring.
 
Show flashes of other illusionists.
Cheyenne: I suppose I am rather unique among illusionists. 
At this moment, I have no reason to feed. So I choose not to do so. 
 
Lunia shivers.
Homgoroshi: ...well, if we've already come this far, we might as well see it through. You remember the way out of here, right?
Lunia: Of course, but... if this really okay? 
Cheyenne sits staring, not looking particularly interested in their conversation.
Homegoroshi: Probably not. Thinking about it, I'm sure its the reason we were assigned to come out here in the first place.
But... as long as it leaves our territory, that should satisfy the higher-ups.
 
Lunia turns, still not completely facing Cheyenne.
Lunia: So it's decided! We'll lead you out. But if you try anything funny...
Cheyenne tilts her head.
Cheyenne: You have said that twice now, but I do not quite understand. Why would I do something funny? I cannot say I have much of a sense of humor.
Dots.
 
Lunia and Homgeoroshi turn and talk privately.
Lunia: Is... is this really happening?
Homegoroshi: I'm not convinced that this isn't some elaborate prank myself. 
Lunia clears her throat and turns.
Lunia: Well... in any case, we should get going. The desert edge is still pretty far, and my charity doesn't really extend to sharing a campsite with a monster. 
...
Focus on Cheyenne still on her knees in the sand.
Lunia: You fell before, didn't you? Can you stand?
 
Cheyenne: It is not a matter of whether I can or not. I am well aware you would be incapable of assisting me. 
Cheyenne starts to stand, pauses, and then stands fully, dusting the sand off her dress.
Cheyenne: I am standing now.
Lunia: ...good! So, uh... 
Show Cheyenne looking up at Lunia and Lunia still covering her eyes.
Lunia: How is this going to work?
 
Homegoroshi: ...the risk for myself is considerably lower than yours.
Homegoroshi bows his head, then looks at Cheyenne from Lunia's shoulder.
Illusionist. If you walk behind Lunia and cover your eyes, we will lead you to the forest. 
I'll stand from here and watch. If you so much as peek at me, Lunia will ignite this entire area and destroy you.
Do you understand?
Cheyenne: Yes. I understand.
 
Cheyenne: Likewise, I understand why you do not trust me. If I may be honest, even if I did have any intent to harm you, I would not risk opening my eyes in a place such as this desert.
The dry air and sand may damage my eyes. As I am already rather dehydrated, I imagine it wouldbe rather painful.
Lunia: Wait, hold on. You mean to say... your eyes aren't open?
Homegoroshi: Sounds like a convenient lie to me.
 
Cheyenne: What reason would I have to lie? 
I could see right away that you were a flame eleman, and I am not so foolish as to believe I could have challenged you in your own territory.
If I did wish to harm you, I would have no reason to hold off on doing so. 
Lunia slowly opens her eyes, looking at Cheyenne and seeing her blindfold.
Lunia: ...a blindfold.
Cheyenne reaches up and touches it.
Cheyenne: To protect my eyes. I do not need them to see, after all. 
 
Homegoroshi and Luni exchange glances.
Homegoroshi: ...in any case, we should get going. It'll be dark soon, and then we can head towards the exit.
Cheyenne: ?
Did you not say before that you would not wish to make camp with the likes of myself?
Is the edge of the desert so close that we can make it there before night falls?
 
Lunia: Oh, not at all! But in this heat, who wants to travel when the sun out? 
Besides, the fastest way to navigate this place is by the stars!
...but, uh. I guess you wouldn't know that, huh.
Cheyenne: I can't say that I would, no. I have never seen the stars myself. 
However...
 
Zoom in on Cheyenne, looking up.
Cheyenne: Sometimes when the moon is out and there are clouds in the sky, I can feel it's warm light each time a cloud passes it by. 
Those subtle movements make up the sky that I can see.
Lunia stares at Cheyenne in awe.
 
Cheyenne looks back at Lunia, making her jump.
Lunia: ...a-anyway, let's go. I've got a general idea of what direction we can head in for now, and we can fix our trajectory once night falls.
Cheyenne: All right.
Lunia thinking: "..."
"What was that just now..."
"Is this girl... really a monster?"
 
--
 
Show the group walking single file as the sun sets.
Homegoroshi keeps an eye on Cheyenne, who follows with her face tilted towards the ground.
 
(50)
 
Homegoroshi: There's just one thing that's bothering me...
You remember the stories, don't you? Technically, we shouldn't have been able to get as close to her as we did regardless of what her intent was.
Or rather, at least not you. 
Lunia: You talkin' smack about me?
Homegoroshi: I mean it. Considering what I am, it's perfectly reasonable for me to get close. But...
You're just an eleman. There shouldn't be a difference. So why...
Cheyenne walks silently behind them.
 
Lunia: ...we're almost to the forest. Can you tell we're getting close?
Cheyenne: Yes. The forest has a different feel than the desert. 
A look down at the ground, which is teeming with more plants and rocks than before.
Cheyenne: Though I cannot see the trees, I can feel the ground beneath my feet changing to something else.
Lunia: Heh. I guess that would be kind of a giveaway, huh.
 
Homegoroshi: ...hm.
Perhaps we should take this opportunity to learn more about them. The illusionists.
It's not very common for one to speak as proficiently as you do, let alone be so... open to doing so. 
Cheyenne tilts her head.
Lunia: They've been around in this world almost around as long as we have, right?
You'd think we'd know more about them by now.
Homegoroshi: Well, they're not exactly easy to study...
 
Homegoroshi suddenly perks up.
Homegoroshi: Lunia. Something's coming. Can you see any...?
Lunia has stopped walking and is frozen in fear, her shoulder shaking.
...Lunia?
 
Lunia thinking: "This feeling... my whole body feels like it's frozen in ice."
"It hurts... my chest feels so tight..."
Homegoroshi: Lunia! Close your eyes!
Lunia!!
 
Standing across from the trio is a little girl in tattered clothing. Her head is angled downwards.
She looks up, her hair covering her eyes, and grins. She's missing a few teeth.
Illusionist: ...h-heheh...
 
The illusionist stands up straight, her eyes half open.
Homegoroshi: It's another illusionist!!!
 
Lunia falls to her knees and covers her mouth, her whole body shaking. Her eyes are open and angled towards the ground. 
Lunia thinking: "I... I can't move. It's so horrible. Everything... it's too much, I--"
In an instant, the illusionist has rushed over, twisting it's head to look up at her -- it's eyes are still closed.
Illusionist: I seeeeee yooooou.
Lunia's eyes widen as she jerks backwards, scrambling back several feet.
 
Homegoroshi runs up to Lunia's face, wrapping his tail over her eyes.
Homegoroshi: Dammit! I said close your eyes! Pull yourself together!!
Behind him, Lunia's eyes squeeze shut.
 
Everything is dark in these pages, with cuts ins of what's happening.
Lunia thinking: "Damn... where did this thing come from!?"
Homegoroshi: Stay back you monster!! I won't give you Lunia!!
Lunia thinking: "Is it because we got too close to the woods?"
Homegoroshi: Lunia!!
 
Lunia thinking: "No... no, it's too much of a coincidence. You never see two together like this. 
"You never..."
"...you."
A cut in of Cheyenne.
 
Lunia turns to Cheyenne on her hands and knees, her eyes closed and Homegoroshi on top of her head.
Lunia: You... this was a trap all along, wasn't it!?
Cheyenne says nothing.
Lunia: And after I helped you!!
 
Cheyenne and Lunia exchange glances without actually looking at each other lol.
Cheyenne looks up.
 
Cheyenne walks forward, passing by Lunia.
Lunia almost turns but keeps her back facing them.
Cheyenne faces the illusionist, view shows illusionist beyond Cheyenne, angled from the ground.
Show Cheyenne's face.
Cheyenne: Leave. These creatures are not yours to feed on.
 
The illusionist pants, staggering in front of Cheyenne.
It grins, but it's eyes stay blank.
Illusionist: So seeeeeerious... that's no fuuuu-
 
Cheyenne suddenly attacks the illusionist, both hands outstretched.
She tackles it to the ground with both hands on either side of it's face, thumbs planted over it's eyes.
The illusionist's expression doesn't change.
Illusionist: ...ah
 
Silhouette only, Cheyenne piercing it's eyes as it screams and blood spurts out. 
Long horizontal bubble for the scream covers whole page.
Lunia on bottom, back turned to them, staring in the distance in a mix of horror and shock (view angled from above).
 
Cheyenne climbs off and staggers back, blood on her hands and dress. She turns to Lunia.
The illusionist climbs to it's knees, holding it's face in pain.
Cheyenne: You have a few seconds before it's eyes regenerate. 
Burn it. 
Show Lunia's eyes open, appearing almost sad and horrified as the text accompanies it.
Cheyenne: You can do it, can't you?
Show Homegoroshi, his eyes downcast.
 
Lunia closes her eyes and turns arms stretched on either side of her.
Her arms start smoking as liquid-like flames drip from her hands.
They burst into sparkling flames, before shooting off in all directions
 
The flames home in on the illusionist as it looks up, it's eyes still bleeding.
Illuionist: ...hee.
 
The illusionist screams as it bursts into flames. 
All that's left are ashes.
 
--
 
Sunrise.
Lunia scratching her head and looking at Cheyenne. 
Lunia: ...you really helped us out. Thanks... I guess.
Cheyenne: Of course. It is the least I could do in return for helping me find my way out of the desert.
Lunia is frowning, and Cheyenne tilts her head.
...you seem... troubled.
 
Lunia: Well, I... I also wanted to apologize. For blaming you like that.
Cheyenne: ?
There is no need for you to apologize. It is only natural for you to be distrustful of a creature such as myself. 
Show the burned remains of the previous illusionist.
After all, among illusionists I am something of an oddity. 
 
Homegoroshi looks up at the sky.
Homegoroshi: ...we should report back. If you're gone too long, they're going to send someone out looking for you.
Lunia: Ah, right! I guess this is where we part ways then, huh?
Lunia smiles and turns to Cheyenne.
Lunia: Maybe we'll meet again sometime!
Cheyenne looks up at her, not quite smiling.
 
Show an scenery shot of the forest with text over it.
Cheyenne: Perhaps we will.
 
(75)
 
-- 4 years later --
 
 
 

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