A biting, arid wind sliced through the wasteland, eliciting strange sounds as it rushed past protrusions that emerged from the hills of scrap metal. The barren landscape stretched outward without end, mound after mound of dismantled machinery of all forms dotting the land as far as the eye could see. The ground itself was a layer of scrap, with no indication as to its end or origin.
Along the ground, scattered around the mountains of scrap, were numerous skeletons, their bones clothed in various types of clothing and armor. The garments had withstood the test of time; the corpses of their possessors had not. Any traces of the smell of rot had long since vanished, replaced by the smell of oil and rust. The dirty yellow of the bones stood out against the faded greys, reds, browns and silvers of the abandoned machinery, constructing a dreary scene of dismay.
Amidst this landscape, only one human voice resounded: the voice of a girl, moaning in agony. At the bottom of one of the scrap hills, just three metres from one of the skeletons, was Lily Voirgaire. Having been transported here by the mysterious <<Transfer Circle>>, she now leaned her weight on the base of the mountain of machinery, her breaths coming heavy and ragged as she bled out from the red, mangled stumps of her thighs. Her eyes were tinged red from crying, but no tears were falling now; she had not the energy to produce them. Her movements were sluggish, her blinking slow.
Lily was well aware: she was to die here, in this foreign land, in this unknown place, alone, dreams unfulfilled. <<Battleforged>> was dead. Hina was probably dead. And it was all her fault. She closed her eyes and tilted her head back, feeling her life seeping out from her wounds. If she hadn’t made that request, this wouldn’t have happened. If she hadn’t carelessly explored the depths of the dungeon, perhaps the Dragon would never have appeared. Perhaps she would still have her legs, and Battleforged would still be alive. Hina would still be alive. Her selfishness, her arrogance, had killed them.
Someone like her should just die quietly. No, a quiet death was too forgiving. Someone like her should die screaming and in agony.
And yet, even bearing this sin, seeking death as atonement, her body refused to let her simply die. Her <<Extension>> preserved her existence. Even now, as she wished death upon herself, her magic reached out from her wound to the tattered remains on her leggings, tightening them around the wound to limit the blood loss, driven by some innate self-preservation instinct. She tried to forcibly cut the magic, but nothing worked. Her magic continued extending her life, disregarding her wishes.
She cursed herself. Did this not mean, somewhere, subconsciously, she wanted to live? Did this not mean she thought so little of her sin? Behind her closed lids, scenes of the deaths of <<Battleforged>> raced through her mind. Images of Hina, smiling at her, played themselves over and over. It’s my fault. I killed them. I have no right to go on living. It is my fate to die here alone.
The accusatory scenes of death faded away, replaced with new scenes. The first time she’d been called useless, and the subsequent crying. The first complex machine she ever made, the white <<Machina Gauntlet>> that had been by her side all these years. The first clock she had ever constructed. Her feelings of excitement when hearing about the new floor in the dungeon. The joy of perfecting that <<Music Box>> after days of effort.
…what’s so wrong? Why shouldn’t I live?
All these scenes faded, replaced by a single, long one. A dream. An aspiration. A hope for the future. She saw herself, kneeling at the feet of the Dean of Azoria, receiving the ornate ceremonial staff that indicated the status of a <<Court Researcher>>. She saw herself at a large workshop, far larger than her own, teaching a myriad of students while working on some new invention. She saw herself sitting at a table, holding hands with a faceless person, watching the red hues of sunset tinge the rooftops of Azoria.
…screw fate. Like hell I’m going to just die here.
Conviction slowly rose within Lily. She had a dream to fulfill. She had hopes to realise.
Whether or not she had caused the deaths of <<Battleforged>> was a nonconcern. Death was absolute. Once it claimed you, there was no escape. For the living to worry about the dead was foolish. The dead had no troubles; they required no assistance. Lily had a dream that she was going to fulfill, no matter the cost, and to do that…
…I have to live!
Lily’s eyes snapped open and began darting around frantically, looking for anything that could save her. She may have resolved herself, but she was still bleeding to death from the wound on her thighs. Even as she felt the strength drain for her, she searched her vicinity, searching for something, anything.
A few metres away from her, a single, smooth white box with a red cross on it. She did not recognise the symbol, but the color scheme reminded her of the clothing worn by the medical staff in Azoria. The box was a singular whole, with no apparent opening, but on one of its larger faces there was a circular green button. Quickly running out of time and options, Lily began to move over to it, relying on her arms to pull herself forward. The sharp metal on the ground cut into her arms and body, but she grit her teeth, slowly inching toward the box, leaving a trail of blood behind her.
With a firm finger, she pushed the green button. with a whirring sound, the surface of the box that was flush with the rest of it rose upwards and opened, the top surface splitting into two symmetrical halves along the middle and moving apart. There were words written on the inner side of the box in an older version of the Gam language used by a majority of the human races.
[Field Medical Kit 04]
The contents in the box were in a mess, thrown about and jumbled together. As Lily desperately stuck her hand in to search for anything she could use, she started slightly at the fact that cold air was circulating within the box. As she moved her hand about within the box, she came across what felt like a bag of cold liquid. Grabbing it tightly, she raised it out of the box to examine. It was a rectangular bag with a small tube and a needle attached, filled with a crimson red liquid. Blood. Lily’s heart skipped a beat as she whispered silent thanks to the gods. Blood. This was exactly what she needed.
Again in the older Gam language, there were words written on the packet.
[Blood Transfusion pack. Remove cap from needle, insert into vein.]
Lily had been bleeding all this time. It was her sheer will that kept her conscious, and even now she threatened to collapse from blood loss. Without any hesitation, with blind trust born of desperation and conviction, Lily took the needle, removed its clear cover, then plunged it into her arm. The blood level of the packet started to slowly decrease. For several minutes, nothing happened. Then she slowly began to feel ever so slightly stronger, her giddiness receding just a bit. Lily breathed a sigh of relief, then panicked. The blood flowing out of her legs had increased in volume. She understood. Even if she replenished her blood, it would continue to flow out from her leg wound. She had to seal the wound. She looked back to the box, hoping for another miracle.
Unfortunately, aside from the packed liquids, most of the items in the box were broken or rusted, rendering them unusable. The only tools Lily could see that seemed relatively usable was a pair of identical cylindrical, white rods. For both of them, one end was red and the other green. They, too, had an inscription upon them.
[For Cauterization. Insert red end into wound. Turn green end.]
Lily had no idea what <<Cauterization>> was, but it was the only item left in the box. It seemed to be for wounds, so she decided to attempt to use it to see what happened. If it was the right tool, she would be saved. If it was the wrong one, it might worsen the wound and kill her. It was a gamble with terrible odds.
Lily’s lips twisted upward into a cold smile. How was she to challenge fate if she feared a gamble? With a single motion, with one rod in each hand, she plunged the red ends of the two rods into her two wounds, creating a new wave of pain that caused Lily to lock her jaw in pain. With a decisive speed, she turned the green ends on both rods at the same time, then closed her eyes and braced herself.
First, nothing happened. Then, there was a slight sound of something being sprayed around, and a stinging pain surged from the area. Still, the pain was miniscule compared to the pain of jabbing the rods into her raw wound. Then the pain started. With a spark, fire started to spread out radially from the center of the rods. This pain, was incomparable to any of the pain she had felt in the rest of the treatment. Lily was overwhelmed by the urge to scream, but she desperately kept her mouth shut, refusing to give in. The pain was immense, but it was nothing compared to the pain of the Dragon biting off her legs. With that thought in mind, she endured the agony. And so it was that Lily remained silent throughout as the skin around her wound was burned away.
When the fire finally stopped, the rods dislodged themselves, leaving a charred, blackened area around the place where her legs ended. Lily wiped off the sweat in which she was drenched and took several deep breaths while she observed. After a while, she noted that no more blood was flowing and slumped on the ground, exhausted. She would live. She fished out another pack of blood from the box, and substituted it for the now-empty previous packet, then she lay down and closed her eyes.
As she felt strength gradually returning to her, she sighed. She was so tired… First, some rest. Then, she would work on her dream. As the blood from the packet continued to drain into her arm, she gently dozed off to sleep, creating a striking image: A young disabled girl, sleeping among mountains of junk and the long-decayed corpses of others. A legless girl resting peacefully in a land of discarded metal.