FreedomSwap Remix – 0. Prologue

In a rustic little kingdom to the north, all was quiet and calm. Vast waters rippled softly, stars twinkled overhead. Against the landscape of greens and blues stood a large, powerful structure: the kingdom’s Royal Palace. It overlooked the city as a symbol of strength and protection, a reminder to its denizens that all was well. For a time, in this place, the world was peaceful.

That was, until the peace was broken.

From within the palace walls, the earth began to shake. Soldiers standing guard looked around curiously, and, as the tremors grew stronger, so did they grow panicked. Soon the ground had given way beneath them, crumbled stone falling away into inky abyss, taking the soldiers with it.

Those who remained looked on in horror as a monstrous, golden metal paw lifted itself from the chasm and gripped the floor with ferocious claws the size of a dozen men. As it pulled the rest of its enormous feline body into view, the air was filled with sickening laughter that echoed up and down the corridors. The soldiers raised their guns, opening fire on the mechanical monstrosity before them, but try as they might, they couldn’t so much as make a scratch. The visor over the contraption’s face lifted slowly, revealing a gleaming green light that resonated with energy. For a moment, there was quiet as the soldiers stared up at the light, almost as if entranced. And all at once, it let loose a devastating laser beam, ripping across the ground, through the soldiers, and up the wall. Everything in its path was gone.

The wretched mechanical beast stomped across the palace, the cackling it gave off filling the throne room. As the doorway collapsed to make room for the intruder, the King of Shuigang rose from his royal seat, battle axe in hand. He looked on as a click came from the robot, and its cockpit lowered, revealing the figure at the wheel. The laughing faded as the figure stood, staring down with striking reptilian eyes. Donning heavy armor and gripping the robot’s controls with metal hands attached to metal arms, the creature grinned a twisted, fanged grin.

“Hello… Your Majesty.”

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Kingdom Come

Two months. It had been two months since Avalice was invaded. Two months since three kingdoms were ripped apart and cast to the brink of war. Two months since the Kingdom Stone transformed and bathed all the planet with its light. But for two, the most important thing that happened two months ago was the death of Shuigang’s King.

He had been known as many things. A powerful warrior. A fine monarch. A respected ally. A father. To Dail, he had been all of that and more. An inspiration, a role model. The epitome of a great ruler. The King was everything that Dail wanted to be once he took the throne.

He could remember all the days he had spent under his father’s tutelage. All the time sword fighting or studying politics, Dail had hung on the King’s every word, every movement, so that one day, he could be just like him.

But why? Oh, why did he have to be taken away so soon? There was still so much that Dail had to learn, still so much that he could only have learned from the King. His time wasn’t supposed to come yet. Dail was not yet meant to be king any more than his father was yet meant to be buried. Dail wasn’t ready, he wasn’t prepared. Why did the time have to come so soon?

But oh, Dail knew. He knew too well. The King was dead because of him. It had happened so fast, but he remembered clear as day. He saw it, he saw with his own eyes, the swing of the blade and the flying of feathers. He saw, he saw with his own eyes, the limp, decapitated body fall to the ground. Dail, Dail could have saved him, if only he were stronger. But no. He couldn’t save him. He couldn’t even avenge him. It was his weakness, his failure, his fault that the King was dead. His fault. His fault.

“Forgive me, father,” he prayed, and he prayed each and every night, each and every day. “Forgive me for my failure. I’m so, so sorry. I failed you, and my kingdom. It’s my fault that you’re gone. I can never replace you.”

Two months. Two months he had been saying that. Two months he had spent in Shuigang Palace, begging the forgiveness of a father from whom he would never receive an answer. Two months he had spent drowning in his own tears, refusing to take the throne, for the throne was not his to take. He wasn’t ready to be King, it wasn’t his time. He knew that for a fact.

Dail was a failure. He couldn’t be King. If he were strong enough to be King, his father would still be here, and he wouldn’t be in this position. Until he was strong, he couldn’t be King. Until he wasn’t a failure, he couldn’t be King. Dail could not be King.

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Last Beginnings

Blood spilled over the streets of Shuigang. In a dark, empty corner where there lurked only those who were looking for trouble, unconscious bodies scattered the road. They were hurt, but breathing. Beyond them lay another, just a child, whose blood pooled beneath him and painted the concrete crimson. Small footsteps rushed over at the sound of his pained groans, and a short figure stood over him.

“Hey, mister! Are you okay?”

He clenched his teeth and painfully opened a single eye in the hope of getting a look at the person who had addressed him, but his vision was blurred, and his head ached. “Do I look okay to you?” he growled.

“No… No, that looks bad.” The person reached out to him, and spoke in a high voice, “Here, let me help you…”

He swatted their hand away. “No. I don’t need your help.” He tried to sit up, clutching his gut and bloodying his hand. Ultimately he just ended up flopping onto his back again. “I don’t… I… don’t…”

A moment later, he was supported into a sitting position. “Yes, you do.”

He paused for a moment to steady his breathing. Something was being tied around his wound, slowing the blood loss. His vision corrected itself, and he was able to see the group of bodies on the street. “What… What happened to…?”

“I saw them hurting you, so I came to help.”

His brow furrowed in confusion. “What…? So you’re the one who… who took all of them out?”

“Yeah, that was me.”

“But how? You’re just… you’re just a…” He looked to the person supporting him, and he cut himself off. She was a girl, smaller than him, with two little horns sticking out of her head and a pair of long tendrils dangling behind her. She looked concerned. “…a dragon. You’re a dragon.” He rested his palm against his forehead. “Sure, why not? Ugh…”

“I’m going to take you to the hospital,” the girl said insistently, attempting to lift him into her arms.

“No!” He pushed her away, and she stared at him in confusion. “No hospitals!”

“Well I’m not just going to leave you here!” she exclaimed.

He sighed. He looked down at his torso to see what she had used to tie around his wound, which was inevitably her own jacket. “No… No, I guess you’re not. Come here.” She knelt down beside him again. “Listen. I need you to take me somewhere else. I can point the way.”

“I’ll do it,” she said determinedly, and she began to lift him into her arms until he grunted and scolded her.

“No, put me down.” She did as she was told. “I can walk just… fine. I only need you to support me.”

“Oh. Okay.” She lifted him to his feet and helped to hold him up. Carefully, they took a couple of steps forward. He was unsteady, but she had him. “By the way… My name is Sash. What’s yours?”

“My name is—” His answer was cut short by a fit of coughing, during which she stopped and gripped his shoulders. He wiped his mouth and huffed, then looked up. His eyes met hers. He paused for a moment before trying again.

“My name is…”

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