Chapter 3: Sacrifice

It was hard to believe an entire month had passed by so quickly, yet things were starting to take a turn for the better since Joshua's arrival in Blueside with more supplies being uncovered nearly everyday and the citizens managed to keep their once shattered society together despite the constant fears of them having another disaster befall them. The water wasn't exactly the most pleasant thing to drink, at times horribly tainted by dirt, but it was better than nothing.

Dr. Radek was slightly relieved at the gradually decreasing number of injuries that had to be treated and was teaching a small group of people medical techniques that would not only help them, but lessen the burden of being one of the only people who was capable of treating diseases and major injuries. Sometimes, however, he felt unwell and left most of the patients to be treated by a doctor in training. It was clearly obvious the amount of physical work the doctor performed was beginning to fatigue him, similar to Joshua and the small force that had been formed about two weeks ago.

While the force in question consisted of himself and about five others which also included Red, Timothy and Carl, all armed with some sort of fire-arm, there was some difficulty in teaching the other two members of the force how to use their weapon and in the end decided to leave it to the brothers who obviously had more expertise in handling such task. There wasn't much of a need for them to use the guns as the majority of the time spent was scouting the outskirts of the city and only on occasion was there any Seekers waiting for them.

But as another week passed, Joshua began to feel more and more uneasy. An increasing number of Seekers seemed to heading towards them and the numbers weren't steady increments. It was almost like an entire army would be upon them within a few days at the rate they kept coming. Unsure on what to do, he tried to think of a solution. Getting overwhelmed by sheer numbers was an ever-increasing risk as the days went on and the 'Force' was the only line of defense the citizens had.

Trying to escape would be a better option, yet they'd have to leave the safety of Blueside's large mountain range and the vast supplies that were still being discovered. It would be difficult to keep the people feed and alive, not to mention they'd be under a state of panic, thinking they'd still be pursued. The next day, however, the choice was made for him. had asked for Joshua to come to the Medical Labs to show him something of utmost importance. Watching the doctor press a few buttons beneath a large television screen, an image flickered to life.

"You...You can't be serious!" Joshua shouted, horrified at what he saw.

Thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands of Seekers were advancing towards the city from the north and would be through the mountain range and actually inside Blueside within two days. Even more startling was that they seemed to be dragging some sort of odd device that was about several meters in size and completely black. Unsure at what it was, zoomed in on the object and since Joshua's eyes were already open wide in horror, his face went paler...well, more than normal anyway.

"I-It's...a bomb! Something that size would be able to level the entire city as soon as it was detonated!" Joshua yelled in horror.

"Then I take it we evacuate the civilians? I do not think we have that much time to get the supplies and people onboard your ship before they arrive. Those creatures would only need to reach the centre of the city before the bomb would be potent enough to destroy this place. While you would be able to slow them down to buy us enough time, I cannot ask such a thing from you. You're essential if these people are ever to live without fear and protecting them should we come under attack by something else." Dr Radek mused.

Joshua folded his arms and looked up at the screen. He knew that they couldn't just sit around and wait for them all to be blown into pieces, but he wasn't about to risk the chances of anyone's survival, either. Those supplies were vital to keeping the people alive. He was pretty sure he'd be able to buy them enough time and still make it back to the Radiance and take off with everyone and everything needed on board. He just wished he could figure out why the hell the one who made these creatures was doing this.

"...I don't really have much choice. I said I was going to save everyone that needed saving and I'm going to stick to my words, even if it means cutting things a bit too close for my liking. Start the evacuations and inform the 'Force' that they've got no obligation to assist me in holding the enemy back. You're in charge of the evacuation, so make sure no-one gets left behind. I know I'm sounding harsh, but I'm holding myself and you responsible if you leave a single person behind to die." Joshua said calmly.

Nodding in response and quickly grabbing his equipment, left the room while Joshua kept staring at the screen wondering at how so many Seekers could've been created in such a small amount of time. There were so many questions he wanted the answers to, but they refused to show themselves to him. The day quickly went by faster than what was expected and what was worse they were behind schedule in the evacuation process. Many of the people were being stubborn and refusing to listen to reason or part with their possessions until either or Joshua informed them of the situation.

Amidst the panic, Joshua could only smile weakly as he saw Carl head towards him and load his rifle. At first the two argued, Joshua claiming he'd be throwing his life away if he fought by his side, while Carl retorted that he was his own person and much older than him for a start and secondly informed that he wasn't going to be stupid and get into the thick of things.

"I'm no fool. Most of us here don't even have a single scrap of courage compared to you and I'm well aware of when I should run. You know that I use a rifle so I won't be in too much peril and I doubt I'd end up hitting you at the speed you move at. Besides, you're going to need a hand in holding those freaks back." Carl replied smugly.

Joshua gave a sigh and finally gave in but warned him that he should head back to the ship as soon as the Seekers got too close, otherwise he'd be stranded on the ground and obliterated in the blast. The hours continued to pass by and the people continued to board the Radiance while the hero stood alone on a mountain, watching the enemy drawing ever-closer. A series of footsteps made him turn around to see Sugar struggling to keep herself from falling over.

"Hey. You really should be on the Radiance, you know. It's going to be very dangerous here soon..." Joshua informed.

"...I just can't believe that you're going to be doing something so dangerous like this. I know you want to protect me and the people but what about yourself? What's to stop them from being too much for you? What if you get hurt...or don't make it back to the ship on time? You can't say you're not afraid..." Sugar whispered.

"I've been through worse and I doubt that this will be too difficult. Besides, you know that I've got a promise that I need to keep, right? I said I'd be there for anything and protect you no matter what. I'm not the sort of person who breaks his promises...There's too much for me to lose if I didn't keep them." Joshua replied.

"Like what?"

"Well, my life for one thing, but more importantly...I'd lose the ones I had to protect and reasons to keep on going. Listen...in case something does go wrong and I don't make it back..." Joshua started.

"D-Don't go saying things like that! You'll be fine! I..." Sugar shouted.

"Relax...I'm not saying I'm NOT going to make it back...I was just saying that you'd be the one in charge. There's no-one else I trust more than you and there's so much that needs to be done...If I wasn't there, If I don't make it back...I want you to keep helping people in my place. Can you do that, Sugar?" Joshua asked firmly.

He regretted sounding a bit forceful in his last statement but if the worst was to happen, then he'd need Sugar to be up to the challenge of taking his place. While she may still not remember as much as he'd hoped, he could only pray that she'd remember what she needed to do and perhaps...

"I-I'll try...But you don't really need to say all this, you're going to be fine. You've done so much already, I know you can do this and come back in one piece. I mean, you showed me how fast you could run; you'd be able to outrun the explosion if you wanted to! If I just had some sort of power of my own, I'd fight with you..."

The last sentence caught Joshua's ear, but refused to look her in the eye or even respond to that statement. Taking one last glance at Sugar before walking off, she started to follow but hesitated. Something was going through his mind that would be better off left for him to figure out. Wishing she wasn't so helpless, began to trek back to Blueside on her own while Joshua was standing on the pinnacle of the mountain range, watching the Seekers draw ever closer.

What...What should I do? I can't just give up and leave her on her own...trying to buy the people time will probably get me injured and taking enough damage would slow me down so much I'd...But they're relying on me to protect them. To protect innocent lives or to protect her. Saving lives or keeping a promise...I don't know... Joshua contemplated, closing his eyes.

The future looked bleak no matter what way he looked at it and wished someone...anyone was here to help him. He didn't care if it was his brother or Joshuwa...someone to watch over Sugar if he failed. Cold mountain air blew stronger, chilling him to the bone. Sleep was vital if he was to be at his best tomorrow...

Yet peaceful slumber didn't befall Joshua, nor Sugar. Both had nightmares haunt their minds, Joshua watching the capital of Sapureth...Sugar's home erupt in a pillar of blazing fire, while Sugar tossed and turned, distressed a huge bright flash of light engulf the one who'd befriended her despite her memories vanishing...and when the light faded, so had Joshua. Sitting upright and letting out a small scream that none heard, she tried to shake her head clear from those thoughts.

Why is he so important? He...saved my life and looked after me. But there's something about him...something I feel towards him...but what is it? I...I can't remember. Joshua...Promise me you'll tell me everything after we get away from here. I need...to know. Sugar thought to herself.

Meanwhile, Joshua's thoughts were deep in the recent past...a figure shrouded in darkness had Sugar hostage, a needle containing a deadly poison which would effectively kill her. The man spoke, his voice cold and uncaring.

Hesitate and they die. Oppose me and I'll release the toxin, killing her. Think about it. You know you want to stop me...but risking the Princesses life? Do you decide to let me go unopposed and let me conduct my...experiment, knowing you'd be the death of thousands...no...millions? Decide, before I decide for you.

And like all the other times the memory played in his mind, Joshua dropped his blades and fell to his knees, knowing either way he'd failed. Tears poured down from his face, hidden by the shadows, torn in two.

... ...I can't stop you like this...Just let her go.

The man released his grip on Sugar's throat before she vanished in a flash of light. Yelling out and grabbing his swords, demanding what he'd done, the voice simply replied he'd sent her back home. Joshua's face went pale as the man clicked his fingers...triggering the disasters that brought the world into ruin...Knowing there was no time to waste to grieve, knowing Sugar could still be alive, he dashed off towards the capital, hoping she was alive...

A bright flash of light brought Joshua back to reality, breathing heavily at the nightmare that was his recent past. He hated himself for being powerless. Unable to stop the mad-man...and the worst of it was he couldn't remember what he looked like...or his name. Only that he was the one who'd killed all those people...but why? An experiment...?
Morning finally came with the people and supplies still being loaded onto the Radiance. At this rate, they'd hopefully make it out with a few minutes to spare. Turning to Sugar and giving her a short, brief hug, Joshua nodded silently before turning to Carl who quickly made off towards his sniper-spot. There was little said between the two as they headed towards the foe. Still struggling to come up with a solution, he rushed forward to find the Seekers on the very edge of the city.

"C'mon! I'll show you all!"

Pushing aside the thoughts in his head, replaced with a great deal of anger he had towards these creatures causing so much destruction...having to make the painful decision of what he should do...his dark green eyes flickered red for a split second before he lashed out at the next Seeker, he quickly found himself surrounded but kept weaving through the thick of them, slashing with his blades and removing them from existence with ease.

Never staying in the same place for less than a second, the bomb was still some distance away and a huge swarm of monsters were guarding it as it was dragged along. Knowing that heading straight into that amount of enemies was foolish, Joshua leapt a few feet back and jumped into the air before hurling his sword. It spiralled like a deadly propeller and mowed down a row of Seekers before the blade returned to it's owner.

Scattering like cowardly insects, many found themselves disintegrating into a cloud of mist as armour piercing 'slugs' shot rapidly through the air. Carl's accuracy had vastly improved from when Joshua had encountered him and gave the hero a chance to get to the bomb. Looking at the weird device, something was weird about it. No wires, no timer...nothing. How was he supposed to disable the thing?

"Carl! They're getting too close! Get to the Radiance, now!" Joshua ordered over his com-link.

"...All right. I'll see you there." Carl calmly replied and a few seconds later, the hail of bullets stopped.

Unsure on what to do now, his main plan to defuse the bomb going up in smoke, his thinking was a welcome distraction and a Seeker caught him off guard when it rammed into Joshua's side, throwing him off balance. Barely keeping his cool and ducking under a powerful claw swipe, he quickly found himself surrounded...and what was worse, the bomb had advanced...

No! There's still a few minutes left before take off! I just have to hold out until then!

Putting all of his energy into his legs and performing a spectacular back-flip, easily getting out of the huge cluster of enemies and began running at full speed towards the group of Seekers that were ahead of him. He was running as fast as he could, putting all of his energy into the palms of his hands which began to glow with a bright light.

"Radiant..."

The Seekers pulling the bomb quickly span around and dashed towards the hero, their fangs bared, talons ready to tear Joshua to pieces. Neither side was backing down in this game of 'Chicken' and when it looked like it was curtains; he raised his head and thrust his hands forward, stars shimmering around his hands.

"BLAST!"

A huge beam of light erupted from Joshua's hands and pierced through the entire group of Seekers before they disintegrated into nothing as the powerful light caused them to be 'erased'. Giving a sigh of exhaustion after using one of his most powerful attacks, everything went into a haze of red and pain when claws slashed across his back. The sheer force sent him tumbling forward and landed on his chest.

"Joshua! Come in! We've finished getting everyone on the Radiance! We're ready to take off!" Dr Radek called over the com-link.

Clutching his side, since the claws managed to reach that far and dig into his waist and through his shirt and skin. Small amounts of blood trickled down his body as he did the best he could to ignore the sheer pain pulsing through his body and raced to the Radiance, driven forward by the promise he made.

There was still time to make it back to the ship before the explosion, to get to somewhere safe...Every limb shouted in protest as they strained to keep him running before the ship finally came into sight, making him glance down at his watch. Forty seconds left.

The sound of the ship's engines beginning to ignite made him realise something as he reached for his backpack and hurled it onto the ship before gripped the entrance. Thoughts that he wasn't going to make it back onboard were constantly looping through his mind. Looking up to see Sugar reaching her hands down to him, Joshua looked up at her with a sorrowful look in his eyes, no longer shimmering with their confidence.

"Just hold on! Someone, please! Help me!" Sugar shouted.

Yet despite her pleas, the people remained motionless, frozen in sheer terror because of what was happening. They were foolishly thinking if they wasted time pulling Joshua on-board, they'd be caught in the blast of the bomb and could only hope with despair and guilt in their hearts, that their saviour would let go. The ship was already holding as much as it could possibly carry.

Glancing down into Joshua's eyes, she saw the exact same feelings and thoughts running through him. Her grip on his right hand slipped away, wondering why he'd averted his gaze towards his back-pack. Opening up to find a shimmering bracelet with a sapphire in it which suddenly shone and formed into a when she held it in her hands, Sugar looked at him confused, her still full of despair and sorrow.

"Joshua...Don't let go...If you let go..." Sugar started.

The teenager remained silent before reaching around his neck with his exhausted arm and removed his necklace, giving it to a stunned Sugar who could only stare at him with horror. He smiled weakly before their hands began to slip away and looked her in the face with a calm face.

"Heh, it s ironic...Before, you were the one who gave up her life for me. Guess it s time to do the same. I suppose that s what love does to you. " Joshua smiled and to her surprise, his hand slipped away from Sugar's and fell back towards the doomed city below.

Sugar tried to leap after him, but was restrained by the nearby civilians and pulled away from the door as it sealed itself shut, the entire ship shaken by the huge explosion of the bomb which had finally exploded, consuming the entire city. A huge dome of deadly energy spread across Blueside before it all began to crumble into dust. She simply remained on the floor, feeling tears streaming down her cheeks and she wept. Even though she had lost her memory, something came back to her before he'd let go...
=== And with that, we come to a conclusion to the first 'Part' of this story. As usual and like before, feedback, suggestions and the like are appreciated. After all, we can only improve with the opinions of others.