There were four guardian beasts protecting the small town of Lostime, located in the heart of Memoria. Phoenix, the Guardian of the Flame, nestled herself within the Fuego Mines' warm interior. Leviathan, Guardian of the Water, dwells in the seas north of the suburbs. Alexander, Guardian of Light, resides within the town clock tower. The Guardian of the Dark, Raffaello, makes his home deep in the Daria Highlands, bordering Lostime's outskirts. All have kept watchful eyes to oversee the tranquility in the land. That is, until one day...
"Seems as though that time is drawing closer," spoke a low voice. A dark cavern was dimly lit by several amethysts that were embedded on the wall. The cavern corridor led way to a old shrine, lit by the largest crystal.
"Raffaello, you're going to have a new Oracle under your supervision soon," replied a tall black mage, carefully fixing his navy blue jacket, then his straw hat. He chuckled a bit; he knew that the dark guardian was already aware of the newcomer.
The guardian gazed at him with his hardy scarlet eyes. "I know." His dull tone was instantly recognizable. "Any oracle has a time limit of servitude, and once the limit is reached, a new one will assume the role. It's a cycle."
"Then I guess my days are numbered. Oh well, might as well work on improving my spells." The black mage joked.
"Watch it, Nero. Your daughter could put you to shame."
The following week was Nero's last days as the Oracle of Dark and was time for the new oracle to take over. Raffaello stood at the shrine's center, waiting for the arrival. Nero returned to the same location, this time with a dark-haired girl at his side. The girl was in her teen years and had vividly bright green eyes. She was also dressed in the same attire as her father, including the trademark straw hat that any black mage would wear. The girl approached the guardian and looked up to make eye contact. Raffaello made the same gesture and locked his eyes with hers.
"Your name?" asked the guardian.
"Croma." answered the girl. She then reached a hand out to Raffaello. In reaction, he raised an eyebrow. His eyes squinted a bit. What on earth? Upon examining, he deduced it was a sign of loyalty. Rare, since not too many actually offered a handshake. Perhaps this one is promising in years to come, he assured himself. He extended his hand and accepted to shake Croma's hand.
Days had passed since Croma's induction, and business remained the same. Not much has happened since life in Memoria is stagnant. Raffaello remained vigilant as always, in case something horrible does occur. For most of the time, though, he stood relaxed. The usual expression of boredom and apathy was clear on his face.
"Hello, anyone home?" rang a familiar tone. The apathy turned into disgust as Raffaello turned to see Nero again.
"I thought you retired as Oracle. I didn't think you would come back and beg for it." Of course, he was utilizing sarcasm. "I'm curious, though. What brings you back here?"
"Thought I stop by and say hi, but since you want me out, then I can leave." Nero fixed his hat to exaggerate his lie.
"I'm not kicking you out by force, tell me." He huffed and crossed his arms. "Why visit me?"
"Well, I thought you needed a neighbor." The black mage grinned.
"Neighbors?" The guardian pondered a bit, then replied. "No, I'm fine without neighbors. Don't complicate me, especially if you do something stupid."
"Relax, I'm only kidding. But as a friendly suggestion, it would help lift your mood." Raffaello rolled his eyes in response. "Anyway, there's a traveler in town. A man who hunts for treasure! It's not often we get people like those. He's probably crazy... Maybe you should see him?"
"Perhaps you've forgotten that I can't leave my position." He huffed more. "Bring him here instead."
"Whatever you say, master." Nero turned around and gestured a bow in his charade.
"Don't push it."
It was only a matter of time until Nero returned with the visitor to the shrine, keeping his word. Raffaello raised an eyebrow, piqued at this traveler. His attire is worth his title, he thought. He was about to ask when he saw the treasure hunter scanning his shrine.
"What jewels!" exclaimed the hunter.
If only his attention to others is that excellent. The humanoid sighed. Calm yourself, he's new. Eventually, the excitement will wear off and he'll finally speak to me. He watched as the man examine the crystals in the cavern. This was expected from a treasure hunter, but do humans really find this fascinating? Usually when new oracles come in, they're used to the environment by now.
"Excuse me?" Nero tried to catch the man's attention.
"Oh!" He snapped out of the trance. "Pardon me, I didn't mean to-"
"It's fine. I don't normally have visitors stare for hours," assured Raffaello. "Though it is in your job description as treasure hunter, yes?"
"Yes." he nodded.
"Do you often see your relatives or such?" the guardian asked.
"Whenever I return home, I go see my grandson and tell him about the places I've visited." Typical. Raffaello's interest waned a bit.
"It will be some time before I go back. Mind if I take a piece?" asked the treasure hunter.
"I don't mind. Do be careful though. Some of these crystals are powerful."
Hours had passed since the traveler's departure. Raffaello continued to stay in the shrine. "You know, perhaps just once you could at least come out of here and see the outside." Nero looked over to the guardian.
"Unless the town is in danger or about to be wiped off the face of the earth, then I have no reason to leave," spoke the dull, uninterested Raffaello. "You should be more concerned about other things." The black mage sat quietly, not paying any mind to the reply.
"I'm just saying, you know. I'm not forcing you or anything." Nero answered with a shrug. "I was just being thoughtful."
The dark guardian heaved an annoyed sigh. "Since you're that desperate, I'll play along."
"Good!" The coaxing was a success.
Outside, dusk was slowly seeping into the orange skies. The black mage and the guardian sat along the entrance to the caves within the highlands. Raffaello gazed at the sky, seemingly spacing out. How much has it changed? It's been a while since I've seen the landscape and I'm amazed that the town expanded. Yet, the highlands haven't changed much. Perhaps it's a matter of time... His thought was soon interrupted by a call.
"Want a bite?" Nero flashed a loaf of bread that he had pulled out of his bag. The guardian did not answer back. Reluctantly, he pulled off a small piece from the bread and began to chew on it. The two watched the sun set as they eat their food. Once they were finished, they continued to sit around, thinking about life. Nero looked over to his partner; something was on his mind. "Hey, I have a question that will riddle you. I'm curious to know: Have you ever been injured, bruised, or anything like that?"
Raffaello scoffed. "Never."
"Never?" Nero parroted. "Not even a small scrape or mental damage?"
"Mild scrapes, yes. Fatal attacks? No. We're able to survive those by thriving on responses of the surrounding environment. If enough support is obtained, we gain more power. We don't fear such attacks."
"That's odd," muttered the black mage.
"It's only odd to you because fear is that of human nature. Isn't it obvious? Humans experience fear and suffering from unfortunate circumstances. The loss of loved ones, mental atrophy, there's not much any mortal can do about it until they die. It's been that way for eons." As Raffaello finished his last sentence, the sun had already faded and the stars were beginning to emerge, one by one.
Nero stood up and stretched his arms out. "Well, I have family to attend. I guess I'll see you another time." He then climbed down the hills.
"Farewell." The guardian only waved once before rising up to return to his domain.
Late in the night, the humanoid paced around in his lair, lit by the surrounding amethysts. His teeth were clenched. His foot tapped against the ground in an irritating manner. "If only the unusual were to occur more frequently, then I would have kept more interest. This land is too quiet..." he muttered to himself. "Several decades of peace left me drained of all sanity!" His red eyes flared violently as he continued to storm across the shrine. "If only... If only..." he stammered and then kneeled down. "What must I do?!" His skin paled more to the point of a monochromatic grey pigment. He panted in sheer frustration as his hair reddened to a rusty color and rune-like markings appeared on his arms and legs. In the midst of his anger, a lone thought had echoed in his mind.
"Humans experience fear and suffering from unfortunate circumstances. The loss of loved ones, mental atrophy, there's not much any mortal can do about it until they die..."
The very phrase that he had uttered to Nero. Another thought raced to his mind. It was a recording- an incident that he had witnessed one time out of curiosity. A male human was attacked by a monster- a leopard-like creature called Couerl, and had a gash on his thigh. Raffaello did nothing to help; he merely watched as the wild Couerl continue to slash at the man, listening to his screams of pain. It wasn't long until the man died as the cat creature left him, and he emerged from his domain to stare at the remains. That was it. Just what he needed to satisfy his fury. Suffering. Where to find such pain? He grinned maniacally, smacking his lips. Moth-like wings emerged from his back, and he was ecstatic at his decision.
In a short hour, screams filled the night skies. Smoke billowed from burning buildings. The townspeople fled in terror, and relatives cried for missing family members that could have perished in the wake of chaos. Within the roaring flames, the monster, formally known as the Guardian of Darkness, stormed across the streets, casting various black magic spells at buildings as well as kicking down walls and punching any helpless victim he comes across. This terror, this suffering... I want more! He had lost everything in his mind. "I'll crush the world if I have to!" The negative energies from the fears of the citizens fed his strength, gradually making him more powerful. Already, he felled several resisting forces, including a dragoon, a ninja, thief, and a knight. Attempts to kill him failed along with several casualties. When he was buried in rubble, they thought it was over, but as long as people fear him, he'll strike back.
Nero had heard of the ongoing chaos and immediately rushed in to stop the berserk monster. Wading through the debris and fleeing residents, he eventually reached Raffaello, in front of his home. He armed himself with his staff, ready to take him down. The beast stopped his trail and raised himself up to make eye contact with the black mage. Anger and insanity flourished wildly in the blood red eyes.
"Raffaello, why are you doing this? Why are you attacking the town?" Nero shouted to his former "friend."
The monster smirked with contempt. "Don't call me that. I no longer possess that name."
"Then I ask again, why are you doing this?" The black mage yelled again.
"Why, you ask?" Raffaello's smirk soon developed into a frenzied smile. "Don't you know? Several aching decades of nothingness! I could have thrown myself into the sea if there was nothing interesting for me to find! Then I recalled what I said to you earlier. It made me find something interesting. I realized that I could subject everyone into extreme torture. So once I'm through with this pathetic pit you call a town, I'll go after the entire human race!" It was clear that he had been corrupted. Nero glared and leaned into an attack stance.
"Over my dead body!" He bellowed.
Raffaello gave a vicious expression. "Then you asked for it!" He lunged at the black mage and clutched him by his shirt and coat. "You'll just be one of many to die!" His fingers curled into a fist and punched Nero with enough momentum to send him flying into the ground, generating a crater as a result of the excess strength. As the dust cleared, Nero laid in the rubble, lifeless. Raffaello looked at the crater where his contender laid, not feeling remorse for his actions. The black mage's hat had flown off and landed in front of a silhouette. The monster looked up to recognize a familiar face- Nero's daughter, Croma.
The girl became enraged. She had shaken hands with earlier and now he killed her father. "You... How dare you!" She suddenly ran toward the beast and attempted to strike him. Raffaello merely knocked her to the side, not as severe as the attack on her father, but enough to send her flying into a wall.
"Croma, you're not worth wasting energy to kill. I have other people to consider." There was a sense of irony in his voice. Croma only groaned in pain and glanced at him, also spying a floating continent in the air. "See that? It's the Floating Fortress. I managed to pry that from the ground. Consider yourself lucky to be alive to see it." He soon abandoned her and went on his way.
The rampage of the guardian continued, with seemingly no end in sight. Raffaello had no regrets whatsoever. True to his word, he abandoned his name and accepted what the townspeople began to call him: The Destroyer. He was unstoppable, a nightmare that could never end. Even he himself thought that he could keep this up and eventually lay waste to the world. That is, until he looked up and saw a bright light that blinded him. A swirling vortex emerged from behind him, sucking him in. How in the-?! Well, if they're going to resort to this, then I have my method. Clinging onto a shard of one of the crystals that have fallen from the continent, he flung it far away. The humanoid beast let out a bellow before he disappeared, along with the vortex. The continent returned to its original spot where it had been uprooted. To the townspeople, they were heavily relieved. He was gone.
Meanwhile, deep with the vortex laid a complex labyrinth with floating puzzle pieces constantly flowing. The Destroyer glanced over the pieces that flew by him. What he saw in them piqued his interest once more. Memories from the residents of Lostime scatter around this strange prison. It seemed as though he was not the only thing to be sealed. Another piece flew by, and this time, he saw the townspeople living in tranquility. He smirked. "It's only a matter of time... But the other guardians will be expecting me. I'll have to think of another way to enter the town without being discovered." An idea ran into his mind. "Of course..." Utilizing his dark magic, he created a decoy- a young boy with grassy green hair. He laughed quietly, smirking at the doppelganger.
"My name is not Raffaello," he spoke to the lifeless child. "It's your name."