It was just before morning. They were headed west of Japini, the southernmost town of Majala. Just as its name indicated, Majala was largely inhabited. Despite being the second largest continent, it was covered in large part by a desert. Only three cities had developed there : Japini at the south, Alakala at the north, and the now destroyed Jatelo. Jatelo was the town Melissa had come from, and in which she and Jhin had descended into the mall. It was now a simple ring of ruins, around an immense crater. After the events of two centuries ago, Japini and Alakala had shrunk greatly in size, and now were simple and humble fishing villages.
Though right now, this was of little importance to them. They were currently headed west, toward a lighthouse at the coast. In Japini, they had been told of two strange occurrences : an old abandoned lighthouse had started to shine at night, accompanied by distant sirens, and a malfunction at the greenhouses east of Japini. There was a good chance these two events were caused by Ideals, so they volunteered.
The western coast of Majala wasn't as arid as the rest of the continent, and this held true for the southwestern coast, where the non-arid area extended a bit more. The landscape was still rocky and dry, but not as dry. In another world, and another civilization, this biome would have been referred to as "mediterranean". Whatever that meant.
The stars were still visible in the sky of just before dawn. Tinted with a deep indigo, the sky rested like a dome atop the slightly orange hues of the eastern horizon's crown of sunrise. On the delicate velvet dome, the countless asters were like as many diamonds, all fighting for attention. Under this dome, the land was creased and folded, the red soil and rocks tainted black from the late night. Here and there, bushes and shrubs were ready to accept the sunlight, and the nocturn fauna was accompanying the night into bed.
Jhin had insisted on departing at least two or three hours before sunrise, as traveling under the sun was a death sentence. Melissa had refused, as they weren't heading into the desert proper and such precautions were not needed. After some negotiating, they had left town just an hour before dawn, and so now that the sun was rising, they weren't far from town. The lighthouse was a bit visible, although you had to look closely and not fall into the trickery of the haze that came with distance.
After just under two days of travel, they finally arrived at the foot of the lighthouse. The sun was still high in the sky, and so they decided to wait for night and see if the rumors were true. Of course, while coming they had seen the light and heard the sirens, but with the echo of the plain they couldn't be sure it came from the lighthouse. They would climb into the lighthouse after they saw the lights.
Just after dusk had fallen, the beacon atop the tower started projecting its powerful beam across the ocean nearby and the plains around. And just after the beacon, a shrieking, long, and painful sound descended from the beacon. The sound was full of sorrow, but also of danger. It was a bit like a siren, though at this distance not completely. They decided to head inside and go see the beacon.
The inside was damp and humid. Frigid air charged with humidity rested stagnantly, the moistness slowly degrading the concrete of the floor. This wasn't the only difference with the outside : while the plain was open, full of warm colors and sunlight, dry, windy, and hot, the lighthouse was enclosed, painted in icy hues of blue and green and gray, covered in shadows, damp, stagnant, and cold. The staircase, made of row concrete, was slippery and went up so high that looking at it from below was like staring into a bottomless abyss. You suddenly forgot that it was above you, and could feel yourself falling upward into the endless spiral. The lighthouse was definitely taller inside than outside.
Without waiting for much longer, they began the climb. It would probably take them all night to reach the top, so they were glad they had rested before going in. The fact that they were no longer bathed in the dry heat also made the climb easier, but it was still a climb. The steps came one after another, each a ring in a seemingly endless chain. As they went upward, they almost didn't notice the few anomalies.
The first of these anomalies was relatively subtle. From time to time, a drop of water would fall from the ceiling onto a step, but the sound it made appeared to come from all around at once. One could liken it to an echo, but it was different : the sound itself didn't echo. It reached the ears from every direction, only once, and did not bounce around afterward.
The second anomaly was more obvious, but could be disregarded by an inattentive person : it was a door. The door was on the outer wall of the lighthouse, probably a few meters above ground. Neither Jhin nor Melissa tried to open it.
And the third anomaly was even weirder : it was a whole room. The room was embedded in the outside wall as well, and protruded at least five meters where only void should be. The room itself was barren, with a moldy wooden floor, wet stone walls and a dark wooden ceiling. The only furniture in the room was a chair, thrown haphazardly in the middle of the room, and another door which also led outside. Once again, Jhin and Melissa just contemplated the room from outside and didn't go in.
After a few hours of climbing steps, they finally arrived at the topmost platform. All around, the room was open, either by glass panels or doorways onto the balcony. The sky outside was already lighting up eastward. In the middle, the beacon was sitting, shining its beam. But, of the beacon, only the outer shell of glass remained : the middle, where the light apparatus should have been, was occupied by an Ideal. It looked like a lonely star, surrounded by deep darkness. From that shining star, like the sole survivor from the universe, both the lightbeam and the siren were being emitted. This close to its source, the siren sounded more like a wailing.
"Why do you shine so bright ?" asked Melissa.
-I want to find my kin" answered the star, finally stopping the tearful cry.
-Your kin ?
-Yes. I don't belong in this place. I was once the Ideal of the starry sky, but now that I've been trapped in here I might as well be the Ideal of isolation.
-Who trapped you ?
-They were boat captains. They told me to shine at night to show where the coast was, to reduce shipwrecks. But I don't belong here. I belong in the starry sky, and so I cry."
Melissa thought about this. They could free the Ideal, but then lots of vessels would crash onto the dark coast. She turned to Jhin, who shrugged. Whatever happened wasn't his responsibility, and he didn't care about the result. "I'll free you," said Melissa. Then, she kicked the glass hard until it broke.
"Thank you" said the little star, escaping from the lightbulb and outside in the western sky, where the sun had not yet reached.
Melissa was ready to hold the burden of the shipwrecks. What neither she, nor Jhin, nor the star could have known, would be that there wouldn't be enough time for shipwrecks to happen at all.