The town of Last Hope was situated on a slope at the base of two narrow cliffs and housed the last of humanity that remained in this world.
At the edge of the town was the Veil, A large, black wall made up of smoke and haze whose main purpose was to keep the monsters away, the very same monsters that had wiped out the rest of the humans.
Unfortunately, the veil wasn't good enough to work perfectly all the time. Once in a while, a monster or two would end up coming through the veil.
So, a group of powerful, trained individuals that called themselves the Defenders took it upon themselves to protect the last remaining humans from the monsters outside.
There was not a single child in the town that did not want to grow up to be one of the Defenders.
* * * * *
Stanley ran down the town to get back to his home which was a long way down the slope, near the Veil. He hurriedly entered his wooden house, placing his sword next to the door, before running into the kitchen where he could hear his mother cooking.
"Mom!" he shouted while jumping into the room.
"Dear god! Don't jump in like that," his mother shouted. "You will give me a heart attack."
Stanley's mother, Yelena, was in her early 40s. She was a woman with a lean body, not because she wanted it that way, but because she couldn't have any better.
Her clothes were without any vibrant colors, just simply gray or brown which was further muddied around the lower end due to the nature of the work that she was forced to do to survive.
"I did it!" Stanley said with a massive smile, not giving a single thought to what his mother was talking about.
"You did what?" his mother asked, not sharing his enthusiasm at all.
"I passed," he said brightly. "Did you forget we had our tests today?"
"You passed?" his mother finally showed some other emotion. "Without any powers?"
"My results were top of the charts even amongst those with powers, so it's natural they passed me," Stanley said. "I now get to go into the third year of training."
The woman smiled. "Aww, I'm proud of you, Stan," she said.
"Hehe," the young man only gave a cheeky smile to his mother. "Although, you might be more proud of Bradley, won't you? He passed the third year's test. He's a Defender now."
"He did?" the woman asked with a bright smile. After all, she knew what it meant for someone to have passed the third year of training as a Defender.
Now that her first son was a Defender, she could go live in the town too, not at the edge of it.
"See? You're more proud of him," Stanley said while giving a fake sour look.
"I'm proud of both my sons equally," she said. "Speaking of which, where's Bradley? Shouldn't that brat give me the information himself?"
"I don't know," Stanley said. "I tried to look for him to come home together, but he sent me back alone saying something important had come up. I don't know where he is now."
"Hmm," the mother thought to herself. "Let's eat for now. I will prepare something for him when he comes back."
Stanley waited for his mother to finish cooking while he himself just looked around his house.
His was a rundown house, with roofs that leaked when it rained. With his father dying a few years after he was born, he had been forced to live here with his mother, who was a Dull. However, now that his brother was a Defender, he could move with them to the center of the town.
'Just one more year and I could've done the same for Mom,' Stanley thought. At least, he was happy that he wouldn't have to stay in this place anymore, even though he was a Dull.
Dulls were people who had not or could not awaken any powers at all. These people were shunned in the town and were usually forced to work on the farms at the edge of the city, not far away from the veil.
They were the ones that were supposed to grow the crops and take care of animals. They were important parts of society and yet they were shunned for not having powers at all.
Stanley hated that. But more than anything, he hated himself for being a Dull as well.
Suddenly, an odd feeling blossomed inside of him. Something that didn't feel natural, but yet at the same time was. It was a truly odd feeling that took him out of the moment for a bit.
'What was that?' he wondered. Then, he got a feeling that he should go to the back door and open it. It was something instinctive to him that he simply couldn't explain.
'The hell is going on?' he wondered, but he still stood up to go open the door. He opened the door and walked outside. When he did, his eyes went wide as he looked down the slope to where the veil was.
In front of the veil was a group of Defenders that were busy fighting monsters that had sneaked in. However, the number wasn't normal at all.
Usually one or two would make it through, but somehow nearly 10 monsters had somehow sneaked in. Then, he saw one of the monsters climbing up the slope and was only a hundred meters away from his house.
And it was crawling in his direction.
Stanley's eyes went wide in horror as he realized what had happened. Monsters had come in, and the first line of defense couldn't stop it at all.
A gust of wind rushed past him, waking him up from his stupor. He turned around and immediately rushed back into his house.
"Mom!" he shouted. "MOM!"
As he shouted, alarms started ringing from near the veil, alerting the entire town of the monster's invasion.
His mother walked out of the kitchen and Stanley immediately grabbed her wrist before pulling her away.
"We need to run," he shouted. He rushed to the front door and somehow the front door was already open.
However, before he could reach it, the monster crashed through the house, sending debris flying everywhere, some of which hit Stanley.
Stanely fell to the ground, blacking out for a second before slowly coming back to it.
A pile of rubble had half-buried him and he couldn't move at all. He felt pain all over his body and some parts even felt hot and wet. Blood trickled down his forehead, but he couldn't find the will to care about his wounds.
His eyes slowly opened to see his mother not far away from him. She was wounded as well with a piece of wood sticking from her right shoulder, but not so much that she couldn't get up and walk.
"Mom…" he said softly as he tried to get back up. However, he wasn't strong enough to pull himself up. He was on the verge of losing consciousness as well since he continued losing blood.
Even then, he reached out for his mother with his bleeding hands.
"Stanley," his mother spoke with bated breaths. "Stanley!"
Stanley barely heard the words at all. He continued reaching for her, but she was too far away. He couldn't reach her at all.
Then, something slammed on top of his mother as she was crushed by a large pillar of wriggling, inky black tendrils.
"NOOOO!" he shouted as he watched his mother get crushed right in front of him. He couldn't even turn away to not watch it or turn toward the monster to see which one had done it.
He could only watch as the black pillar moved away and the half-crushed body of his mother was left behind.
Tears started rolling down his eyes, mixing with the blood that continued flowing.
"I'm so sorry," a voice spoke from next to him.
Then, something sharp stabbed into his arm that was reaching out for his mother.
Before Stanley could even tell what had happened, his vision went dark, and in the next moment, he lost consciousness.