Chain of Light, Chain of Fight
Let's talk about growing up.
The biggest thing that sets kids apart from adults isn't responsibility. It's not even maturity. No, the biggest thing that sets them apart is that kids can get away with doing stupid shit and adults can't. When you're young everyone expects you to be dumb. Acting out of the ordinary is something that people consider normal for a kid. But when an adult does something that goes against the norm it's frowned upon. They ridiculed, shunned, and even punished. Meanwhile a kid can get away with a warning or a slap on the list. After all, everyone thinks that they'll grow out of it anyway. Why not let them have their fun now?
But eventually even a kid will realize that what they're doing won't fly once they reach adulthood. For some that's a signal that they should try and have as much fun as possible while they're young. For others it's equivalent to a death sentence that means the end of their free days and carefree attitude. Alas, no one can stop the flow of time. You either learn to accept it and grow up or become a "useless" adult that's no better than a child. You have to live by the rules even if it means being unhappy.
It was something Brook always found horribly depressing…
"Yeah…I'll let you know if I hear anything else."
Brook pressed the End button on his phone before returning it to his pocket. After getting off the phone with Lucille's mother he had tried calling the others to see if they knew anything. The results had been less than satisfactory. Though they had agreed to meet again in a week they hadn't spoken to each other since leaving that night. Apparently that hadn't been enough to get them to reconnect like Lucille may have been hoping. After all, they still had their own business to go about in the meantime.
Speaking of which, he was realizing just how hard it was to get in contact with his former friends in the first place. Neither Devlin nor Sawyer had answered when he called them, and he was only able to have a quick conversation with Tilde who was at work. She had sounded worried but couldn't just leave her job. You couldn't just run out of work when you felt like it.
As for the person in question who was missing, she wasn't picking up her phone either. That bothered him more than the others not answering. From what he remembered of Lucille she wasn't the type of girl to just run off and worry people like that, even if she had been a little strange. He didn't know what kind of business she had gotten into over the past year but he couldn't think of anything that would cause her to just up and vanish like that. He paused as he thought back to the night she had called them out.
Those cards…Did they have something to do with this?
Lucille had been short in her explanation about them, trying to draw things out until next time. No matter how he thought about them he couldn't think of any way to explain what had happened using normal logic. Lucille was weird, but she didn't have the resources to fake something like that. Even Devlin had confirmed that the sword she had summoned had been real. But there was no way that was possible, right? It was making his head spin uncomfortably.
A noise from behind caused him to turn around. He was greeted by the sight of the girl with purple hair poking her head out of the door to his bedroom like a curious cat. He hadn't seen her for most of the morning but he supposed even she couldn't sleep all the time.
He said simply as she stepped into the hall still only wearing his shirt from last night. It had gotten disheveled while she slept and was close to slipping off of one shoulder. He averted his gave politely while feeling like a stranger in his own home. He motioned towards the kitchen table as he spoke.
"Your clothes are washed. I didn't think you'd want to keep wearing my stuff for long."
He indicated a pair of clothing that had been folded and placed on the table. After getting up he had decided to go ahead and do some laundry while waiting to hear back about Lucille. He had been running out of clean work shirts anyway. The girl padded over to the table and examined her clothes quietly as if to confirm they actually belonged to her. Once she seemed satisfied Brook stood up and started to head down the hall.
"I'm going to wash up. There are some leftovers in the fridge if you're hungry."
Truthfully he was just looking for a reason for them not to be in the same room at the moment, recalling last night. That and he hoped some water would help clear his head after everything that had happened that morning.
A half hour later he exited the bathroom with a towel draped around his neck that he had used to dry his hair with. He hadn't done much more than run some water over his head but it had been oddly refreshing. Unsurprisingly the living room was empty when he came back. He had assumed the girl had gone back to his room but with some surprise he noticed something on the small table in front of the couch. It was his work shirt that the girl had been wearing folded neatly. On top of it was a piece of paper and sitting on that was something else. He moved the thing on top of the paper aside to read what looked to be a short note.
There was no name signed or anything else on the back, but he was sure it was from the girl. Who else could have left it? Just to confirm he headed back to his room and opened the door slowly, only to find the room dark and empty. Slowly he walked back to the living room and sat down on the couch. So she was gone. It wasn't like he missed her, but he was suddenly aware of how eerily empty the apartment was now that he was the only one in it again. He hadn't even gotten a name despite her staying in his room for nearly a week. Oh well, it wasn't like he had expected it to last forever anyway. Even he would have eventually started to demand answers if it had kept going. Whatever she had gotten in to apparently she felt it was safe enough to leave on her own again. What a strange girl, but aside from that…
"Why did she leave these?"
He questioned with genuine confusion as he held up the thing that had been sitting on top of the note. A pair of lavender panties trimmed with cute lace.
Yeah, she was a weird girl alright.
The world seemed to be still and silent despite the gentle breeze that floated on the air. A vast place of wonder and mystery. A wondrous land of danger and intrigue. In a world parallel yet separate from our own, the vast garden of gray extended endlessly.
It was a land of magic.
It was the realm of monsters.
It was a world completely devoid of color.
It was a place known as the Monochrome Garden.
Within the center of this garden stood a solitary King. Though he lacked color just like everything else, he seemed to shine with a vibrant flair that stood out even among the endless gray. He was dressed rather simply yet elegantly. Even without color one could tell of the high quality of his clothing despite their simple design. For it would not be becoming of a King to be arrogant and lord his status over others. Within the gray they were all equal.
"Now then…Let us speak of things to come."
Slowly he reached out to a bush and plucked a rose from it. Though normally the flower would have been a bloody red, in this garden where color didn't exist it was gray just like everything else. Yet the king continued to hold it as if it were precious and dear. What better way was there to symbolize his love other than something so pure and untainted? He took a deep breath while holding the rose to his toned chest.
"I'll extend my love to all, even from a world they cannot yet see."
Love for his dear friends.
For the strangers he loved like family.
His expression was serene and peaceful as he looked towards the gray sky like it was the most beautiful thing in the world.
"Let's open a door so that our love may be shared with all!"
The night air was cool and relaxing. Brook would have even called it peaceful had he been in the right mindset. But right now there were other things on his mind. He stood in front of the scrap heap that Lucille had perched upon almost a week ago when she had first called him and the others out here. After leaving work he had headed back there on a whim. There was still no word from Lucille's mother if the girl had returned yet and he couldn't get in contact with the others either. Off to the side was the steel drum that Devlin had split with the sword and the burn marks from the fireball Lucille had summoned. Had it not been for those he may have been able to write everything off, but they were a reminder that what had happened that night was real.
And now, the person who had shown them those things was gone.
As he stood alone in the abandoned work site he stared at the sky blankly. Why? Why couldn't he feel anything more than slight regret when he should have been fuming with worry? Ever since a year ago it was like he had stepped into a dream where everything was gray. Nothing excited or caught his interest anymore. Gone were the days when he could get into trouble and not have to worry about tomorrow. Now he could only focus on living day by day like a responsible adult was supposed to. It was depressing. So depressing that he felt sick. Now even his friend was missing and he couldn't think what to do. It was the same with that girl from before. He hadn't asked her anything because he knew that it was best not to get involved. Not to take risks or stick his neck out. Just be a safe, responsible adult….Was that all there was to life?
With a self-derisive sigh he tore his view away from the sky as he clenched his fist. What he would give to relive that excitement from back then once more. Those stupid days where they could do whatever they wanted and not have to worry about tomorrow. He thought back to the cards Lucille had. When he saw her use them he had felt something he hadn't felt in the last year. Mysterious cards that called forth those unknown powers…the friends he had barely seen in a year…Were they what he had been missing this whole time?
He blinked as he noticed something in front of him. At the base of the scrap heap, standing out like a sigil, was a patch of gray. Not gray like the scrap metal around them, but a gray as if the color had been sucked out of it. It extended onto the ground like someone had spilled something, but again it didn't seem to be paint or anything else causing it. It was just devoid of color. Could it have been some kind of chemical reaction to something? Somehow that didn't feel right. Something being completely devoid of color like that was just unnatural. A cold sweat began to form on his brow as he suddenly felt extremely uncomfortable. He hadn't been afraid to come out somewhere like this alone at night, but as he stood there he couldn't shake the distinct feeling that something bad was approaching.
Out of sheer instinct he dove to the side. It wasn't a moment too soon as something heavy slammed into the scrap heap he had been standing in front of. He rolled across the ground before sliding to a stop and pulling himself to his feet to see what on earth that could have been. In the darkness he saw the outline of what looked to be a large creature. But that couldn't be right. This thing was nearly the size of a minivan! No way something like that would be in the city.
A low growl filled the air as the thing that had tried to attack him backed out of the scrap heap. He felt his heart beating in his chest as he got a better look at it. If he had to guess he would say it resembled a bear, but that was in shape only. After all, no known species of bear had leathery skin and spikes protruding from its body. He remained still as it sniffed the air several times like it was searching for something before turning in his direction. It continued to growl in a low tone like a dog warning someone not to come closer, but the otherworldly light in its eyes were those of a predator on the hunt. Brook had to swallow the saliva that had been building in his mouth as he tried to remain still so as not to trigger the ire of the beast.
"What is this?"
He asked himself mentally as he tried to stop his hands from trembling. That thing could kill him. He could tell just by looking at it that a human had no way of matching it face to face. Maybe if he had a gun he could hold it off, but even if he picked up a piece of scrap metal that was lying around he knew it wouldn't be enough to defend him. Where it came from or what it actually was was irrelevant at the moment. All he knew that there was no way a normal human could survive that things spikes or claws. Should he run? The thing looked big but something was telling him he wouldn't be able to run it down on foot, and his moped was still back by the street. The moment he turned his back on it would it pounce on him and rip him to shred? Then what were his options at this point? It seemed that every scenario he could think of would end with him dead. He had dodged it the first time out of sheer luck and reflex and didn't think he'd get that lucky again. The bear-like monster took a slow step forward like it was waiting for his reaction. With each second his death was drawing nearer. Yet despite all that, he did the last thing that someone would expect in a situation like this.
A smile slowly began to cross his face. Had he lost his mind to fear, or maybe it was something else…
Time seemed to skip a beat.
And then with a roar, the monster charged.
The only thing that saved him from being split in half by the monster's claws was what he did next. Instead of trying to run or dodge, Brook moved forward instead towards the thing that was aiming to kill him. With a wild shout he jumped forward. So what if he wasn't as athletic as someone like Devlin? He was going to bet his body on this risk! He planted his foot on the monster's face, using it as a stepping stone before propelling himself over its body. It didn't go exact as planned as the monster reared up wildly. The movement caused him to be launched further than he had expected, bodily hitting the ground heavily. Even with the wind knocked out of him he was quick to pull himself into a roll as he planted his hands on the ground for balance. He skidded to a stop at the foot of the ruined scrap pile, an eager light shining in his eyes despite the danger. It felt like he had suddenly woken up from a long nap he had been in for the past year. Everything seemed so clear…so colorful and vibrant. It made his heart beat with ecstasy.
He felt his hand touch something cool. At first he thought it was just a piece of metal, but when he looked down he saw the moonlight illuminating something small and rectangular. A card. Not just any card, but one similar to the ones Lucille had been using on that night. Looking around quickly he saw two more close by which he also snatched up quickly.
"These are the same things Lucille had."
He looked down at the three cards in his hand. Flat and light like paper yet stiff like metal but weighing almost nothing. A cold, chrome surface on one side and a mysterious picture on the other. They were the same alright. And that meant if Lucille could use them…then why couldn't he? Standing up quickly he selected a card at random. The picture shown on it was what looked to be glowing light that extended and twisted endlessly like a ribbon or chain. He held it between two fingers like he remembered Lucille doing. She had spoken some words back then too but he couldn't remember them or if they would even apply to this card. The monster had recovered and was turning to face him again meaning he didn't have much more time to think. It didn't matter; his mind was made up anyway.
"I'll bet my life on this!"
Still with an almost crazed grin he thrust the card forward. Maybe it reacted to his will or desperation, but there was a flash of light from the card as he held it out. It extended like a living thing as it wrapped around his left arm all the way up to the elbow. In the same movement he swung his arm in a wide arc. The light that was still extending from his arm whipped out like an angry snake before striking the monster heavily across the face. It reeled back in pain as it gave an angry growl. With adrenaline pumping through his body, Brook panted with excitement. The shining light retracted back to wrap around his arm again before taking on a more solid shape. He looked down to see a shining, chrome chain covering his left arm which glinted in the moonlight. At the end was a triangular shaped pointed weight about the size of a baseball. The card in his hand, which had once displayed a picture on the surface, had gone black. Is this what had been summoned from it?
"The Chain of Light, Gleipnir."
A sudden voice from above caused him to look up quickly. Standing silhouetted against the moonlight was a figure standing on another nearby heap of building materials.
He was instantly reminded of the small girl, but upon another look it clearly wasn't her. Purple hair and red eyes that seemed eternally stoic. A white track jacket with bright blue stripes running up the sleeves. Black hotpants and worn out sneakers. It was someone he had seen before no doubt. It was the mysterious girl who he had picked up several nights ago and then had left as suddenly as she appeared. Their eyes met for several moments as time seemed to stand still once more. It wasn't until the monster's roar cut through the night that Brook blinked and refocused on the threat at hand. The chain wrapped around his arm felt like it weighed nothing but it had been enough to cause the beast the back off and cry out in pain. But would it be enough to take it down?
"The cards…Draw froth another one."
The girl spoke quietly yet her voice reached him clearly. He didn't have time to question how she knew about the cards or what they were at the moment. For now he would just have to rely on her advice, even if he had already been planning on using them anyway! He glanced quickly at the two remaining cards. One displayed what looked to be a hazy red aura while the other appeared to be a pair of small wings made from light. Since the image of the wings made more sense at the moment he picked that one first. Pulling it away from the others he held it up while concentrating like he had did with the first one. There was a flash of light, though this time instead of covering his arm like the chain had, the light trailed down his legs before wrapping around his ankles. When the light solidified there was a pair of shining wings. On sheer instinct he took a step forward as the beast charged at him again. He kicked off the ground strongly as it got closer.
Brook's eyes widened in surprise as he was propelled high into the air, no doubt as result of the wings on his ankles. It only took a moment to orient himself as he scanned the ground from the air. Below, the girl looked up at him blankly while the monster sniffed the air irritably as it searched for its missing prey. His body felt unnaturally light as if gravity wasn't pulling on it like it should have been. Taking advantage of his aerial maneuverability he righted himself while grabbing holding out the remaining card he had yet to use.
"I'll go with this!"
He shouted as the card flashed. This time it released a bright red light that covered his entire body before vanishing. It didn't seem like anything had changed outwardly, but he felt a powerful strength pulsing through his body that he had never felt before. Pulling his left fist back, the chain wrapped around it began to unravel before he punched downwards.
This time the roar ripped from his mouth. The weight at the end of the chain streaked downwards like a falling star before crashing into the bear's head with such force that it caused its huge body to slam into the ground with a rumble and kick up dirt and debris. Brook descended from the sky, landing as light as a feather in front of the cloud of dust thanks to the wings on his ankles. They vanished as he landed now that they had served their purpose. Behind him the dust cleared to reveal the body of the beast. It gave a grunt as it tried to life itself from the small crater that had formed from the impact of being hit from above, but after a few tries it lay still with a final weak moan. Brook turned to look at it to be met by a somewhat surprising sight. The color was slowly being drained from the creature like the colors themselves were bleeding out. Soon it was as gray and colorless as that patch he had seen before being attacked.
Was it dying?
"It's returning back to where it came from. Back to the Monochrome Garden."
As if reading his mind the girl with purple hair spoke. He watched as she jumped from the scrap heap she had been standing on top of. Though it was a bit high up she landed without ease and with hardly a sound in a manner that reminded him of a cat. The chain around his arm flashed as she approached him before vanishing. When he looked down at the card in his hand he saw the image had returned to it. Now that the danger was gone he had started to calm down a bit. These cards had allowed him to do those things and they seemed to be tied to that monster that attacked him too. And this girl in front of him…she appeared to know what was going on as well. He looked to her as she got closer, red eyes still blank yet staring directly at him.
He asked. She was silent for a moment and just when he thought she wasn't going to answer, the girl opened her mouth and spoke softly.
"They're doors to the Monochrome Garden. Be sure not to lose your color, less you be whisked away as well."
The night wind blew eerily as Brook looked at her, feeling the coolness of the cards in his hand.
Brook said as he handed a can of coffee to the girl. They were standing on a bridge overlooking the street, his moped parked not too far away. They had left the building yard and stopped to get something from a vending machine. The girl had yet to say anything else but she took the can silently, staring at it as Brook opened his drink and took a sip. Nothing else had showed up to attack them and from how unworried the girl was he figured there wasn't any danger at the time being. The cards he had found were tucked into his back pocket securely. As the girl finally got around to opening her can, he let her take several sips before turning to face her.
"You know what these cards are, don't you? And what was that thing you were talking about earlier? Something about a garden?"
The questions he had held off on asking came out now. She clearly knew something and he wasn't about to just ignore asking things again. Not after what had happened. The girl said nothing as she looked back at him. Rather than getting upset at her silence he asked something else.
"Actually, before that…who are you?"
He was at least going to get a name out of this. The girl appeared to be in thought like she was deciding if answering him was wise or not. Finally she opened her mouth and spoke one word. A name.
The similarity of the name to Lucille made him think she was joking at first, but from her eyes it didn't look like she was messing with him. What reason would she have to anyway? There were more important things to worry about anyway, so for now he decided that she was telling the truth.
"Okay, Castille. What are these cards? What is the Monochrome Garden?"
Castille's expression didn't change at his questions though she didn't answer right away. Instead, after some more internal debate, she put her can down and turned to look out over the bridge.
"The Monochrome Garden is a place parallel to this world. A place that is home to many monsters and magic and other things that have lost their color. Those cards are a way to open a door to the garden and bring those things forth."
She answered without looking at him. He listened to her words carefully, not wanting to mean anything. Another world? Monsters and magic? Had it not been for what he had experienced firsthand he would have dismissed her as crazy, but as he listened his heart began to beat rapidly and he felt that tingle of fire down his spine again. With an almost shaking voice he asked another question.
"My friend…she was definitely using these before she disappeared. What happened to her?"
There was no more doubting that these things were connected to Lucille's disappearance. If anyone knew anything more about it then it had to be this girl with a similar name. Castille glanced over to him out of the corner of her eye before looking back out over the bridge as she spoke.
"It's possible that she was attacked. Those who use the Chrome Cards attract the attention of the monsters from the Garden."
His stomach flipped at her words but before the dread can set in she looked at him again before saying something else.
"Or she could have lost her color and become trapped in the Garden. In which case she still may be alive…for now."
Her words brought him a little comfort but the ominous way she said the last part didn't completely ease his worries. Before he could ask anything else, Castille turned to face him fully. For the first time her eyes seemed to be serious as she spoke.
"Those cards…a normal person has no business using them. If you do not wish to lose your color as well it's best to throw them away and forget about them."
Her words sounded like a warning that made him shudder. That monster that had supposedly come from this Monochrome Garden had been the real deal, and he knew that if it weren't for the cards it would have killed him. According to the girl if he got rid of them he wouldn't attract any attention anymore and would be safe. But Lucille was still missing, and they were the link he had to her. Of course a normal person would put their safety first and walk away, but something else was going through his mind.
Castille tilted her head as a low chuckle escaped from Brook. She watched as he walked past her to look out over the bridge as well. Looking up at the night sky the aura around him seemed completely different from the dull and quiet person he usually was. It was like a huge weight had been lifted off of his shoulders and he was smiling oddly.
"When I graduated high school, I thought that was it for me. No more doing stupid things and getting into trouble. I had to grow up and become a 'responsible adult' like everyone was telling me. My mom and dad helped me get an apartment before telling me to get a job, and then Maria was the only one who would hire me on the spot. It was depressing…so depressing to live a boring life. I thought there would be no more excitement anymore. I barely even kept in contact with my friends and before I knew it everyone was going different ways."
She watched as he reached into his back pocket and pulled out the cards. A light shone in his eyes as he looked over them, like a child who had gotten a new toy.
"But then Lucille called us and showed us these. For the first time I thought something exciting might be happening. I couldn't ignore it no matter how much I tried, and even when you ran into me that night I thought it was for the best not to get involved. But now…"
He held up the card with the shining chain on it. Castille had called it Gleipnir, right? For some reason he really liked the name. He spun it on his middle finger deftly before grabbing hold of it and turning to look at Castille with an excited smile.
"How can I possibly run away from something like this?! I still have to find Lucille, even if it does mean going to this Monochrome Garden place. So what if more monsters come after me? That's a risk I'm willing to bet my life on!"
And with that he started to laugh. Castille remained silent as she watched him, her expression unreadable as usual.
On the bridge Brook laughed as he felt reborn. The color had finally returned to his life, and it was all thanks to Lucille and these cards. He would definitely find her so he could thank her properly. After all…what was the point of living in the gray all your life?
A/N: I'll admit this chapter was a little rushed because I felt things were dragging on too slowly and I didn't want people to lose interest. Yet at the same time I didn't want to rush and reveal everything at once. Castille finally has a name at least and we got some action! As usual, look forward to the next chapter and leave a review! And remember, don't lose your color in the gray!