THE temperature in Aquarius had dropped drastically by the time night arrived. It was unusual to have a cold weather in the North, especially for a place with an equatorial climate like Aquarius. While there were no signs of indicating snow would be...
THE temperature in Aquarius had dropped drastically by the time night arrived. It was unusual to have a cold weather in the North, especially for a place with an equatorial climate like Aquarius.
While there were no signs of indicating snow would be pouring any time soon, the cold air felt as if there was.
Meanwhile, two figures were running swiftly, all the while trying to break through the harsh weather of blizzard.
Mika took a peek at her companion who was running beside her, on the left.
Truth be told, she had been really surprised ― shocked even ― when the Captain himself, without any doubt and hesitation, had believed in everything that she had just told him. Including the fact that she was the long lost Spirit Princess.
He had listened to her reasons for travelling all the way to Aquarius, and had believed every single words that she had said without asking any questions.
Feeling curious and rather unnerving, of how easily he had trusted her words, Mika had then asked him why.
“Please don’t be mistaken, Princess. If you’d just said that you were the long missing Spirit Princess without any proof whatsoever, I would have still continued dragging your arse to the dungeon, regardless if it is the truth or not. However, since you’ve just told me such an incredible story — a story of which I, myself had read in the History Book about the Great Spirit King, I have no other choice but to believe in you and your words whatsoever.” Ren replied, calmly and dead-tone.
Soon after Ren had spoken those words, he had released the Princess before pulling her to the side so that the guards couldn’t see them.
Before long, they took off and dashed madly like a runaway lovers.
Having to play a game of hide-and-seek from the guards throughout their ways to their destination, the duo had finally managed to arrive safely at top floor of the Castle ― Ren’s Private Chamber.
While making their way there, Ren had told her that even if he believed her that she was the long missing Spirit Princess, he would still have her locked up as instructed by the King nonetheless. However, because he had his own agenda, he wouldn’t for as long as Mika agreed on helping him.
Upon arriving to his chamber, Ren had told her he needed to pack a few items to bring along with them before they could departed from the castle. Ren proceeded by telling her to make herself comfortable while she still can, because the moment they leave the castle, she would not get any rest whatsoever until night time.
Heeding his words, Mika had found a seat and immediately sat down. Despite her fit physique, it had been a while since she played a game of hide-and-seek with the whole castle packed with guards everywhere they went.
It had been a tough task even for Captain Ren who had to be extremely discreet to smuggle her in around the castle.
Mika had been resting on the wooden chair when all the sudden, she felt a thick woollen cloak was being thrown at her face. Blinking her eyes, she had then realised it was a thick red cloak.
The design was rather simple: with mantle at the top around the neck area.
“Storm will be heading here soon. The weather here is a bit abnormal. By night, the temperature will drastically dropped. With a storm on its way, it’s best to be fully prepared, Your Highness.”
Initially, Mika had been really sceptical about the whole thing. Sure, the weather was cold today and had been since yesterday’s night. But they were on dry lands after all. Surely, wearing a thick cloak like this wasn’t a necessarily?
Nevertheless and out of courtesy, Mika took the offered cloak and wrapped it around her, while Ren had continuously prepared the necessarily things.
By the time they had reached outside of the castle and into the woods, Mika was thankful that the Captain had urgently insisted her to put the cloak, even when she had stubbornly told him that she was fine.
As soon as they’d stepped outside of the castle, the weather had changed from a wintry pale blue sky to a heavy grey snow-laden clouds and blizzard.
Ren saw a small cave at the South and pointed it out. Without waiting for her to agree, he quicken his speed to the cave, with the Spirit Princess followed closely behind him.
The two made it safely to the opening of the cave. Ren quickly took out a piece of an oil-clothed map and a lighter once they walked into the cave. He pointed at an ‘X’ mark on the map.
“That’s our destination. It’s not that far away from here, but with this kind of blizzard, it will be hard for us to move anywhere. I suggest we’ll wait for the weather calms down for a bit before we leave. Is that okay with you, Your Highness?”
“That’s a good idea.”
Ren rose from his seat and began to gather some leftovers woods from the corner of the cave. Once gathered, he was just about to walk back into the cave when it began to pour heavily outside.
“Seriously?” Mika gawked. “As if it wasn’t badly enough with the blizzard, now it’s raining heavily? Talk about unpredictable weather!”
“Like I’ve said before, the weather here is abnormal. One minute, it would be scorning hot. Next thing you knew, heavy rain would pours down for hours. It can lasts until tomorrow or maybe for the next few days. A storm would usually come before or afterwards.”
Ren bought the woods over and placed some of them in a pile. He lighted it up with the lighter.
The fire burned steadily.
Mika scooted closer to it and let her cold hands to warm up. Ren did the same, sitting on her left.
“It’s all because we’ve angered the Huzzar.”
“The Huzzar. It’s a Mystical Creature that protects this whole Kingdom and its surrounding lands. Some called it as the Guardian of this Kingdom.”
Ren opened the heavy bag pack he carried and took out some of the items he had packed earlier ― two chocolate bars, two bottles of mineral and also, four pieces of egg and beef sandwiches.
“Eat up, Your Highness.”
Mika nodded and took one of each items. She ate the chocolate bar first and munched delightfully.
“This tastes good!”
Ren chuckled at the sight of her savouring the chocolate in her mouth. Embarrassed by her own action, Mika stopped munching at the chocolate bar and looked away.
“I’m sorry, Your Highness. I didn’t mean to make you feel uncomfortable or anything. It’s just that... When I’d first found out that you were the long missing Spirit Princess that everyone has been searching for, I’d only assumed you might be ―”
“A spoiled, self-centred princess?” Mika answered for him.
“I was going for restrained, actually.” Ren smirked as he munched on the his sandwich. Wiping the corner of his mouth using back of his hand, Ren continued.
“In all honesty, I’ve never encounter nor have I ever expected to see a member of a Spirit Royal Family, to be so happy eating a mere commoner’s food.”
He finished one of his sandwiches and then took a chuck bite of his chocolate bar. Ren looked at her and grinned.
“Out of all of the food that I’ve eaten at the Castle, this will always be my favourite. It’s not branded or grand or anything. But because this chocolate reminded me of the orphanage home that I’d grew up in, back in Islez.”
“I see.” Mika offered a small smile. The two of them then finished their dinner in silence.
A moment after eating their dinner, Ren decided to break the silence. He took a bottle the drink and gulped it down.
“So the others have absolutely no idea that you’ve recovered your memories? Even Shinji?”
Mika stopped halfway reaching for her drink. In addition of telling him her lost past, she had also informed him of everything that had happened to her while they were running out of the castle ― including her recovering her past without her companions’s knowledge.
How she recovered still remained a mystery. However, Mika had deducted it had something to do with what had happened to her back in the forest ― her encountered with the mysterious masked lad.
Why was it so hard for her to let her friends know that she had finally recovered her long lost memories? Mika wasn’t sure herself.
Pulling her hand back from reaching out to her mineral bottle, Mika stared at the flickering flames.
“No. They don’t know about it, yet. Though, Shinji might know I’m hiding something from him. He always does.”
Mika recalled back when she had nearly blurred out about Shinji’s deep secret back at Milla’s mansion.
“I don’t know.”
“Liar.” Ren snorted. He looked at the young Princess who was now pulling her knees closer to her chest to preserve more heat.
“Are you scared of something, Princess?”
Scared? Of what?
“Whatever do you mean?”
“You tell me.”
Mika let out a long, soft and pitiful sigh after a moment silence had passed by.
“They’re my friends. I’ve come to love them and valued them more than anything else. I’ll do anything to protect them. Because I know they’ll do the same for me too.”
Ren observed her silently. How her breath had hitched as the words rolled out of her mouth. How she began to fidget as her fingers grabbed on the thick cloak like some sort of pledge. All of her small actions had reminded him of the missing Crowd Princess whenever she was nervous.
Not be able to contain any more nervousness for a moment longer, Mika buried her face onto her knees.
“...I’m scared. I’m scared if I told them that I’ve recovered my memories, things will change between us and I don’t want that!” Mika inhaled deeply. “I know what I’ve just said might sound silly and that you’ll probably say ‘things won’t change between us’, but I need to be realistic ― Princesses do not mixed and mingle with commoners. That’s the first rule I’d been taught since young in order to become the future Spirit Queen. We care of the people and for the people, yes. We’ll do anything to protect them and the Kingdom. However in order to do that, there must be a line that needed to be draw between us and them. We’ll have to distance ourselves from them to show our differences. To have them see us as leader. More importantly, see us as Royalty; someone whom they need to respect and looked upon to... I’ve always hated that!”
Mika finally let the tears rolled down on her cheeks, not bothering to wipe them off.
She smiled bitterly at Ren.
“At the age of seven, I’d thought I have completely achieved all the expectations that required of me in order to become the next future Queen. Which was why I’d continued to bear everything with a smile. I’d kept a mantra ― ‘as long as I keep on smiling, everything will be okay’. It had made me oblivious to the world, and even made myself cold to a certain extend that it had made me blind to my surroundings, to the people around me, and most importantly, to my twin brother. I’d turned a blind eye on my twin brother, whom I already knew from the start, was suffering deeply inside while I ran and skipped happily around the people who continuously loved and adored me. I didn’t do anything to help him to overcome the pains he’d carried then. That was my biggest regrets.”
Mika stared at the flickering fire again.
“Don’t get me wrong, I loved my family so much. But that place ― that castle ― it wasn’t a home. Despite my beloved father’s best efforts to keep us happy, not even once did that place had made me felt like I’m at home. That place had made me felt like I was been chained down, that I’m a bird trapped in that cage and I kept on waiting. I have people to feed and care for me. So what was I waiting for? That was when the desire starting to slowly developed into me ― the desire to be freed ― to run away from the Castle’s life and to start anew life, far away from the castle. Some part of me was happy and glad even that I’d been kidnapped by the humans and being thrown to this world.”
Mika chuckled bitterly. “What a messed-up Princess I was. It wasn’t until I met Shinji that changed my whole perspective of life.”
Mika’s eyes lighted up a bit and a smile began to form on her lips.
“Shinji, he had let me taste freedom ― to be able to choose whichever path of life you want. To be able to choose what you want to do instead of doing what people tell you what you should do. To live in a warm place called ‘home’ with the people whom you’d called as ‘family’. He had shown me what it meant to have a family who loves you and who would missed you when you’re gone. That was when I began to feel a sense of loneliness and thought of my own family back at the castle, and that maybe they would have missed me too. I’d also thought that maybe life would be better if we could all live as commoners rather than Spirits Royal members whose life was only limited to the Castle. Again, I’d turned a blind eye on my brother.”
Mika bit her upper lips. she clenched her water bottle tightly in her hands.
“When my brother had come to me one night to bring me back home ― back to life in the Castle, I didn’t want to leave. I’d selfishly begged Makai to leave the castle life and to stay with me, without thinking or even considered his feelings on the matter. How he had been emotionally tortured of the thought of losing me. When he’d left in rage that night, telling me that ‘if he ever sees me again, he would kills me’, that was when I’d realised what I’ve been doing was selfish and that it was already too late to change us. I didn’t even chased after him when he’d left me that night...”
More ears rolled down on her cheeks one after another. All the guilts that she felt after all these years finally resurfaced.
Ren watched silently beside her. He raise one hand and slowly rubbed her back soothingly, letting the young Princess to cry against her knees with her head down.
He understood it all. The feeling of being freed as a bird and suddenly being locked up in a cage. He was like that once too. He had been in her shoes. However, in his case, it was reversed.
In all honesty, Ren couldn’t blamed her upon hearing her story for wanting to leave everything behind, for the sake of freedom, despite how selfish she sounded. After all, she had been merely a child.
A child who was destined to be the future Queen of a Kingdom and the ‘Chosen One’ who would be one day, bring great prosperities, endless fortunes and wealth no only to the Spirit Kingdom, but also to the Spirit World as well.
For a child to carry such heavy burdens and responsibilities on her shoulders...
Ren shook his head sympathetically.
Life could so cruel sometimes.
Ren continuously patting her back in a smooth gesture, letting her released those guilt she had kept inside without judging her. He sat silently beside her, watching as the raging flame continued to flick.
A moment after Mika had told the good Captain Ren about her deep kept secret, she apologised for letting her emotions got the best of her, in which Ren simply nodded.
The two of them resumed by talking about various topics until the topic they were talking about, returned to the infamous legend, the Huzzar.
Out of curiosity, Mika had decided to ask Ren more details about it.
“Like I’ve said before, the Huzzar was a mythical creature. Just as you’ve already know, the Kingdom of Aquarius was once known as the ‘Kingdom of Khulai’. This Kingdom was famous for many of its legends that dated way back from when it had been the Kingdom of Khulai. One of the famous legends, was about ‘the Huzzar’ ― said to be the Guardian and Keeper of the Kingdom. It is believe by the people here that for every Blood Moon that comes in rarely, a virgin is needed to be sacrificed for the Huzzar, in order to keep the Kingdom safe from it’s wrath. I called it bullshit.” Ren threw in more woods into the fire with aggressively.
Mika could clearly sense anger and bitterness coming from the Captain. She stayed quiet and let the man finished.
“There’s no such things as the ‘Huzzar’ or ‘Blood Moon’ or even ‘Sacrificing a Virgin Ritual’! Those were just stupid superstitions that were being passed down from generations to generations. Yet, my uncle truly believes in it. That doesn’t any sense at all!”
Ren gritted his teeth and clenched his fists. “Why would he believes such superstitious thing? How could he willing to sacrifice his own daughter for that stupid belief in the first place?!”
Mika looked at Ren with widened eyes. “What?”
Ren took a deep breath and exhaled. He looked outside, at the rain that was still pouring down heavily. With the temperature rapidly decreased and the addition of the strong wind raging outside every now and then, the two of them had no choice but to sit relatively closed in order to preserve some heat from the fire and kept each other warm.
Mika waited patiently for the Captain to compose and calmed himself down while she kept her hands warm over the fire. It didn’t take her long to wait for the latter before he sighed heavily and said in a soft wearily voice.
“I’ve found these letters,” Ren took out a piece of brown enveloped from his bag ad handed it over to Mika. “Stole ’em from Uncle’s office, actually. At first, the letters looked harmless, just greeting letters from someone named ‘H’. I didn’t noticed the obvious changes at first. But by the time the second and third letters arrived, my Uncle, had completely and drastically changed.”
“Changed?” Mika asked.
“Yes. Something about those letters had shaken him deep to his core. He mumbled to himself often, and became very paranoid of little things; such as preventing the Princess from being out of the castle or anywhere. Hell, she wasn’t even allowed to go out of her chamber!” Ren scoffed.
“As time went on, his conditions went from bad to worse. He locked himself in his own chamber at nights, unwillingly to go out regardless of whatever happens. No matter how many times I’d tried to persuade him to tell me what was going on and what was that had troubled him so greatly, he refused to tell. He said that I should be best minding my own damn business. The whole thing went on for three whole months ― exactly before the start of the First Spirit Invasion in Andania.”
Mika gasped while Ren simply shook his head and sighed.
“After the First Spirit Invasion, His Majesty’s conditions gotten from bad to worse. He became a mad man and a tyrant King that he is now. He became even more paranoid that drove him to make a drastic move ― creating a giant barrier around the Kingdom. How or when he’d managed to do it, no one knew. Not even I knew about it until later. ”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“I couldn’t take it any more. So one day, just as I’d about to confront him, I’d overheard he said something to the Princess ― about the Blood Moon and the ‘offering’ to the Huzzar.”
Ren swiftly turned his head to look at Mika. His eyes filled with rage.
“He wanted to sacrifice his own daughter on the night of the Blood Moon!”
Mika gasped loudly.
“That’s horrible! Why on earth would he did that for?”
“I know. Which is why I took the initial step beforehand ― by kidnapping the Crown Princess and kept her hidden somewhere far away from the castle.”
“You did what?”
“It was the only way that I could think of within a short limit of time. Mind you, I did it with the Princess’s consent and permission, of course. Anyhow, after my ‘kidnapping’ act, I then spread rumours around the castle saying that the Huzzar had chose the Princess as it’s ‘Sacrificial Virgin’ and it had ‘abducted’ her into a secret hiding. I’d wanted to see how would His Majesty reaction.”
“He’d freaked out. He went madder than he was before and became more tyrant. That was I’d suspected that he was been controlled by whoever this ‘H’ was. So one day, I’d sneaked into his office and read those letters. What I’d found out later shocked the hell out of me.” Ren took one of the letter and handed it over to her.
Mika opened the folded letter and began to read out aloud:
’Remember what you’d owned me.’
“It gets better.” Ren handed her another letter.
“’You selfish heartless bastard! You will pay for what you’d done!’ ” Mika read aloud as Ren kept handing her letter after letter.
Each letter contained one sentence with malice words. Until finally, Mika reached out for the last letter. Unlike the rest of the letters, the last letter contained more words than just a sentence.
“ ’I see you still haven’t figured it out who I am yet. Even with so many given hints, your big idiotic head still won’t remember who I am? Or are you pretending NOT to remember who I am? No matter. Whatever reasons you’ve given me so far will ends tonight. Because when the Blood Moon appears, I’ll make sure that you get to see your precious daughter’s body laying in the garden, in the pool of her own blood! You humans are pathetic creatures know nothing about pain nor real grief until you’ve experience it yourself! Very well, if that’s the case, then so be it!’
“What?!” Mika’s eyes grew widened.
Ren nodded. “Whoever this ‘H’ person is, they’re planning on an assassination on the Princess. His Majesty freaked out about this mostly because he thought ‘H’ had already abducted the Princess.”
“But she’s still safe at the moment, right?”
“Of course! The place that I’d kept her hidden was a secret place that no one knows, not even the King himself knew about it. The place has a magical barrier around it that only I am allowed to access.”
“That’s good, I suppose.”
“Look, Princess. I know what I’ve done was wrong ― not only did I deceived His Majesty, but also to the entire Kingdom. You have to understand, my duty is to protect the Princess as her Bodyguard and protect her, I shall.”
“I don’t think what you did was wrong at all, Captain. However, I am concerned of one thing, to be honest...”
“What is it?”
In a blink of an eye, Mika had pinned Ren on the ground, with one of her dagger pointed at his neck, and another hand lifted his right arm up on his back in an arm-lock.
“You haven’t yet answered my question earlier: what the hell happened to the rest of my companions?” Mika glared sharply at him, ignoring his shocking facial expression.
It took the Captain a full minute to hold a grasp of the situation before he realized what had just happened to him.
“You... tricked me!” Ren snarled. “Freakin’ Spirit Princess!”
Ren struggled to get her off him. Mika increased and pushed her body weights onto him, making it hard for him to move his arm.
Mika was about to speak when a beeping noise interrupted her.
Beep.Beep.Beep. The sound echoed throughout the cave.
“What the hell is that sound?”
The beeping sound kept getting louder. Mika fought between continuously pressing the man down on the ground or get off him and stopped the beeping noise that was starting to give her a headache.
In the end, she chose to do the latter.
The moment Mika had pulled her weights off him, Ren kicked the air and made a mad dash by rolling over the side. He posed himself in a fighting defensive stance, while he glared narrowly at her.
On the other hand, Mika was busily searching for the whereabouts of the beeping noise that she didn’t even noticed the Captain had slipped away.
All the sudden, it finally clicked her. The noise was coming from her right wrist ― the Communication Device!
Honestly, with all the chaos and all hell had broke loose back at the Castle, she had forgotten all about the Communication Device!
Mika quickly pressed the small button.
“Hello? Kazuo? Hello!”
“-ika! Mika, can you hear me?” Came a familiar voice over the speaker that wasn’t her ginger-blonde haired companion.
Mika let out a soft gasp, covering her mouth with one hand. Ren watched her strangely trained eyes. Just a moment ago, she had him pinned on the ground, full of confidence.
Now however, the confidence that he had seen earlier quickly dissipated and was replaced with a warm feelings reflected in her eyes by whoever it was talking on the device that was attached to her wrist.
“...Yes. Yes, I can hear you clearly over here. Shinji.” Her voice softened at mentioning Shinji's name.
What had caught the First Captain's attention the most was the name of the recipient. Sighing in relief, Mika was about to ask how had he been when she realized something important.
“Wait, Shinji. If you’re talking to me now, then that means ―”
“That's right.” Shinji’s voice lightened. “Kazuo had managed to free himself from the guards just as Guy and myself were about to run to the exit of the dungeon. He had already filled us the details what had happened back then. Are you okay? We’ve searched all over the dungeon to find you. Where the hell are you anyway?”
“I’m fine! I’m glad to hear you guys are doing okay too. About that-” Before Mika could even finished her sentences, to her unexpected, Ren had lifted her wrist up closer to his mouth.
“She’s with me.”
There was a sound of someone, possibly Kazuo, swearing loudly at the background upon hearing the First Captain’s voice. Fortunately, Kazuo’s loud swear was immediately put to an end when Shinji barked angrily for him to shut up for a moment.
Taking a long deep breath, the White Wolf Prince spoke in a thin voice.
“So it is you, Ren. I don’t know what you’re up to, nor do I give a damn, but since you have my Apprentice with you, I have no other choice but to put my trust on you to keep her safe and sound until we regroup. Harm a thread of her hair and I’ll have you eating my bullets. Understood?”
A smirk suddenly appeared formed on Ren’s lips.
“His Highness has always be so serious. Very well. Since it was you who had asked me a favour, I’ll try to keep her safe with me. In return, I would like for you to do something for me. Something that I am absolutely positively sure the very reason why the great Young Master Oracle Fye had sent you and your party to come here in the first place.”
“What is it?”
“WHEN is the Blood Moon?” Rinda’s voice echoed loudly throughout the deadly blizzard.
The temperature had plummeted to freezing temperatures. The grey clouds in the even darker sky were heavy with precipitation.
The young girl pulled her thick winter coat that she’d bought along, closer to cover the rest of her body and neck. Rinda leaned against the strong gust of icy wind that threatened to push her off her feet. She cursed under her breath, with chattering teeth as her body shivered tremendously.
“According to the Master Oracle, the Blood Moon occurs very rarely. Legend says one will surely knows when the Blood Moon arrives surely is when there are catastrophes happen to the Kingdom.” Leo shouted, also struggling to fight against the strong blizzard.
“This blizzard is too much. We’ll have to take a shelter!”
“Prince, I see a cave nearby! We can take a shelter over there!”
Without waiting for any answers, Makai led them to the cave pointed by Leo.
Not long afterwards, Makai and his party arrived at the entrance of the cave, all shivering and wishing desperately for some heat. Without any words, they began to work on setting a small camp site.
Rinda was in charge of the meals, Leo had bravely embraced the harsh weather in search for some useful woods he had seen along the way here. Makai was in charge of arranging a makeshift bed for the three of them near the bonfire.
When everything was done and settled, the trio had then grouped together and sat down on each sleeping bags, getting warm for their cold and almost frozen butts.
Rinda had prepared them an instant hot vegetable canned soup. She divided the soup to three before serving them using clean recycled empty cans she’d kept for the trip.
Together, they all ate in silence.
“So,” Leo spoke, once everyone had finished eating their soups. “What are your thoughts about what has happened up until now? Prince?”
Makai put away the empty can and folded his legs to a more comfortable position. Sitting beside him on the left side, Rinda did the same while gathering the empty cans.
“So far, we’ve confirmed that the Lord of Luyas and also the King of this Kingdom, are both connected and at faults for the Spirit’s Invasions. Our mission is to locate the missing Baron’s Portal which is located somewhere in the Castle.”
“That being said, but how do we find it? What’s more, now we have a deadline!”
“Calm down, little Missy. We still have time to worry about that. According to the Master Oracle, the Blood Moon won’t be here until tomorrow’s night. That means we still have time to find the location. Regardless, let us not forget that the Princess and her fellow entourages are on the same mission as well. If we’re lucky, we might just bumped into them. Won’t you agree, Prince?”
Instead of answering the question, Makai simply looked at the cave’s entrance outside with a stoic expression.
“We’ll rest for tonight.” Makai pulled his sleeping bag closer to the bonfire.
Just as Rinda was about to pull her own sleeping beg, the Spirit Prince suddenly reached out for hers and then arranged it closely beside him.
“Hey! What do you think you’re doing?”
Makai glared. “What does it looks like I’m doing, peasant?”
Ignoring the girl’s deep frown, the Prince forcefully grabbed the edge of her sleeping bag, after she had refused to let it go.
Getting irritated at her rudeness toward him, Makai snarled. “Look here, peasant. Like it or not, we are stuck here until morning and I intend to get a good night sleep. I would suggest you do so as well. If you do not wish to be frozen to death by tomorrow’s morning, then shut you little mouth and just go to sleep!”
“He is correct, little Lady. Besides, we’re just going to sleep beside each other in our own sleeping bags.”
Rinda let out an excessively sigh. She continued to frown deeply, still not convinced if which idea was the worse: sleeping beside a bitter and emotional Spirit Prince whom she added, might just killed her in her sleep or sleeping in sandwiched between the two well grown Spirits men?
Watching her frowned and winched as she made up her mind had let Leo to sigh tiredly. Wasting no time, the older Spirit got up to his feet, dragging his sleeping bed with him toward the girl.
“If it makes you comfortable, then allow me switch places with you.” Not waiting for her reply, Leo pulled her beg to the side, and placed with his own.
Rinda was fairly stunned. Of course, she had no objections at what he was doing ― better him than that emo Prince.
At least she knew she won’t be killed in her sleep. If Rinda was being honest to herself, she trusted the old Spirit more so than with the Prince.
There was a heavy hump, before Rinda found herself lying inside the warm comfort of her sleeping bag. She turned her back against the older Spirit. Even though warmth had surrounded them comfortably, her body was as stiff as a cardboard.
Never before did she imagined that she would be sleeping beside any male species, except for maybe in her wildest dream and fantasy she sometimes had ― to be sleep and wake up each night and morning beside her one and only love, her Prince Charming ― Shinji.
Regardless, the only empty space between the three of them were so uptight and closed that she had no choice but to endure it. It didn’t take Rinda long before her eyes finally closed on their own, and her body began to relax at the warmth shared by everyone.
The last thing she heard was the soft soothing snore that came from the older Spirit beside her before her mind drifted away to a far away place called Dreamland.
THE underground dungeon of the Aquarius Castle was dark and eerie. The walls were damp and moist with spider webs and a few torches hanging on the wall, each torch was a few meters away from the next torch ― made most of the hallways haunted by dark creepy shadows.
“Gah! Where in the hell is the freakin’ exit!” Kazuo threw his hands up irritatingly in the air.
They had been walking for hours. Each time they turned to a corner, it always led them to another maze, followed by another.
In the end, the three men got tired moving around in circles and decided to take a short break.
To Kazuo's right was Guy, sweating, huffing and panting while holding one hand to his chest. The ‘Black Stone’ that Shinji had given him back in the cell, had began to wear off about two hour ago.
Guy looked at the wristwatch for the time ― only one hour left to go. When he had started seeing double visions, that was then when he’d requested for them to take a break for a short while.
“You okay there?” Shinji asked, concerned in his voice. After he had eaten the ‘Black Stone’, Shinji had used up moderate amount of his energy to heal up the rest of the latter’s wounds.
Unfortunately, he still couldn’t healed most part of the deep wound on his chest. Shinji had closed up most of the outside layers of the wound, but the wound itself still needed a proper treatment.
“I’m fine.” Guy coughed. “Or rather, I’d like to say that ‘I’m fine’, but I know you two won’t fall for that.”
“Take it easy, bud. No need to force yourself.” Kazuo gently patted his friend’s back. He had been the one who helped out Guy the most by supporting and shielding him whenever necessarily, while Shinji led the way and kept a close watch on any unwanted 'friends' coming their way.
Letting out a sigh, Kazuo looked to their leader who was clicking the button on the wristwatch — his wristwatch. The Chained Sickle Master had handed it over to Shinji when his got broken by the mad King.
“No signs of the kid?”
“Nothing.” Shinji sighed in frustration. “I don’t understand. We’ve managed to contact Mika not too while ago. Is this thing broken?”
“Or maybe it’s the signal.” Guy deducted. “The deeper we go, the harder it is for us to get the signal. We are in the deeper part of underground dungeon, after all.”
“Damn. Isn’t there a way for us to get through? Can’t you break the walls or something, Shinji?”
Shinji stood up. “I’ll try.”
Raising his hands in the air, he concentrated on gathering his chi when all the sudden, Shinji turned around, and released the small chi he had created at the West direction, amongst the shadows.
“As sharp as ever, Prince Shinji.” A short figure slowly came out from the shadows.
All three men were on their guards, and weapons on hands. Shinji kept his gun aimed at the intruder’s chest. Kazuo had summoned his chained sickle and stood in front of Guy.
As the man continued to step closer to the light, all three of them gasped at the familiar faces.
“YOU!” Kazuo growled. “You’re that son of bitch who had almost us killed!”
The mysterious Captain, also known as the ‘Son of Nature’ stopped. Behind him was with his loyal and trusted partner, Lisa.
“I’m honoured you still remember who I am. However, it wasn’t me who’d tried to kill you. Have you forgotten?”
“Shut ye trap, Bastard!” Kazuo was about to launched a hard fist at the Captain when he was deliberately stopped by Shinji, who pulled both his arms to the back.
“Stop! What do you think you’re doing?”
“Giving that bastard a punch he deserves, what else!”
“Fool!” Shinji tightened his grip on the man’s arms. He whispered lowly in his ear. “Idiot. Don’t you remember what had happened last time?”
Flashback in the forest when the first time the two of them met with the latter — how he had moved so incredibly fast and had caught Shinji’s accurately shot bullets within his fingers. How he'd managed to kick their arses and turned Mika to a maniac Spirit that had nearly caused them all to lose their lives at the same time.
Kazuo stopped struggling after a while. He roughly pushed Shinji aside before he took a few steps back. All the while, he kept a hatred gaze on their new ‘friends.’
Meanwhile, the young Captain looked uninterested at the very least at those two men. His eyes moved from those two and were immediately fixed on Guy.
“I can help you heal that wound.”
“Take one step and you’re a dead man.” Shinji growled. “Got a name? Or do you prefer to be called jackarse?”
“Haru.” The lad pointed his left thumb at the woman beside him. “This is Lisa. She’s my long-time partner.”
“What do you want with us, Haru? If you’re looking for Mika, she’s not here.” Guy asked calmly.
“I’ve noticed. No fear, I know where she is.”
Shinji narrowed his eyes. Wordlessly, Haru turned to his partner who simply nodded.
In a blank of an eye, she appeared before Guy.
“Stay away from him!” Kazuo was about to run when he found out that he couldn’t. His feet had been buried by the ground like a quicksand.
Even Shinji looked anything but calm. Kazuo knew deep down, he was rather tense and in turmoil of what to do next.
Meanwhile, Guy remained still with his widened eyes. Shock was written all over his face. He didn’t even had the time to react to the situation when she’d disappeared and then reappeared before him!
Holding onto his wounded chest with one already blood-stained hand, and his weapon on one hand, Guy had thought of swinging his spear at the woman, giving the others the division they needed in order to obtain the upper hands.
A quick glare to where Shinji’s firm gaze met his, had told him otherwise. Behind him, Haru had one of his thin and deadly needle on his back — around his heart. Ready to punctual it should anyone dared to make a suspicious move.
Guy remained still and stiff as a board.
All the sudden, Lisa reached out her hand to Guy’s chest, despite his protest and trying to avoid her touch. She eventually managed to put her hand on his chest after a little struggling from the owner, and her hand began to transparently glow in white.Before long, that same glow was transferred to the wound.
“Gah!” Guy gasped and cried aloud.
“Don’t you dare touch him! Guy!” Kazuo tried desperately to move his legs, but failed miserably to do so. The more he moved, the quicker he sink into the ground.
“What’s she doing to him?” Shinji demanded to know.
“She’s healing him. Can’t you see?”
True enough, the deep wound that was on Guy’s chest was slowly starting to close up. In less than a minute, the wound completely healed, not leaving even a faintest scar behind.
Satisfied and done with her work, Lisa pulled back her hand and took a few steps. She turned her head to meet with her Captain and the other two men.
Guy slowly moved his fingers to where his chest was. Softly, he rubbed on the area of the once wound and found there was none. He looked up at the woman, shock was still written all over his face.
Slowly, Guy whispered, “Thank you.”
At the sound of finger’s snapping, Kazuo was once again, able to move his legs and the needle behind Shinji was removed.
Lisa walked casually to her awaiting Captain. She didn’t even flinched at the thought of the chained scythe Master who looked more than ready to get a hold of her.
For the whole time she’d walked back to Haru, Shinji had aimed his gun at her until she reached beside the petite man, and then he redirected his aim to the said Captain.
“Why did you healed me?” Guy asked Lisa after the long silence.
"Because I’d told her to.” Haru answered.
"Because I need all of you to be alive.”
“Why?” Shinji asked this time..
Haru let out a dramatic sigh. “Do we really want to waste our time telling stories instead of finding a way out of this maze?”
“I got plenty of time.” Shinji moved his aim from the latter’s heart, to his head. “One wrong move and it’s your head this time.”
“You say that but you don’t really try hard.” Haru taunted, crossing his arms.
“The Princess plays an important part of the missing puzzle. Which is why I needed her to stay strong — emotionally and physically strong for anything to come.”
“What puzzle?” Guy asked again.
“— Of course, now that she has finally regained her long lost memories, there is little for me to be worried and concerned about.”
As soon as those words shoot from his mouth, the atmosphere around them changed drastically.
Shinji, who had been keeping his cool in checked, all the while, experienced the change the most. His eyes, previously narrowed, were now widened. Even his mouth had dropped slightly, and his breathe hitched as the words began to slowly registered to his brain.
His other two comrades were too stunned to say anything.
Time seemed to stop for another minute or two before Shinji finally could said something. His voice was raspy, cold, and hard as he took a few steps forward.
“What did you say? Just now, what did you say?”
“Shinji...” Kazuo warned, taking a step forward, while pulling the man’s elbow, the same way as the latter had done to him earlier.
“Tell me!” Shinji raised his voice.
His action came to a shock to everyone. Even Lisa, evidently took a step back with a gasp. She had been watching him ever since they started to spy on the Spirit Princess. She knew how controllable Shinji was with his feelings by never letting it get the better of him.
To be honest, Lisa had been truly impressed of how calmly the White Wolf Prince had been even when the Spirit Princess’s life was on stack. Even back then, Shinji had never cracked under pressure.
Now, it felt like all of those emotions that he’d been trying real hard to control — to not let them get the best of him, suddenly burst out of control like fireworks.
It finally immediately clicked to Lisa whenever Shinji lose control of his emotions, it always, always related to the Spirit Princess.
Meanwhile, Haru watched the scene played out before him carefully. He watched with a slightly hint of amusement of how the young Prince’s cold walls slowly crumpled at the mention of the long lost Spirit Princess’s memories finally returned.
Initially, Haru doubted the idea that perhaps it was better for Shinji if the Princess had told him that herself earlier instead of hearing it from him?
No. Of course not.
Haru knew what he was doing was cruel, to a certain point, even sadistic — enjoying how a man got to find out something very valuable and personal from him.
But it had to be done.
No matter what happened, he needed all four of them to go to the Red Line and stopped the Spirit Queen at any given cost — even if it means that he would lose some people’s trusts in the end.
Beside guiding them there, he also needed them to be able to trust each other without having doubts for one another and be acceptance each other’s faults, weaknesses, and strengths, if ever they hoped to defeat the Spirit Queen because that’s the key, the only key for them to defeat her.
Haru readjusted his mask. “You’re scared aren’t you, Prince Shinji?”
“He’s just messing with ye. Don’t let him get to ye head.” Kazuo growled lowly, tightened his grip on the man’s elbows.
Ignoring Kazuo’s words, Haru continued.
“You’re scared — no, terrified, not knowing how to deal and explained the situation when or should the day when the Princess’s memories returned. Why had you left her in Luyas all those years instead of bringing her back home with you? How could you, knowing how her life would turned out to be if she ever lives with people outside of the Clan? Admit it, deep down inside, you’re happy to know that she couldn’t remember a damn thing of what’d happened on that day — the day that changed everything.”
“Shut up..” Shinji gritted his teeth. His long bangs covered most of his face.
“After all, it was you who’d caused the Princess to lose her memories in the first place.”
“SHUT UP!” Shinji’s eyes grew widened. “You know nothing about me or Mika.”
Shinji lifted his right hand that was holding the gun and took aim at the short Captain, despite Kazuo’s protest. The latter grabbed on Shinji’s right wrist and in attempt to put the gun down.
“Stop it!” Kazuo hissed. “He’s just trying to irk you, Shinji. It wasn’t ye damn fault! You did what ye had to do. What you’ve done for Mika up until now was to protect her — to keep her safe — from your enemies and hers! A blind man could easily see that! So enough tormenting yourself with the damn guilt!”
“Is that the truth?” Came a deep, silence voice that belonged to Guy, who looked at them with strict expression and an unreadable gaze in his eyes at Shinji.
“Is what he said was the truth, Shinji?”
Shinji eventually lowered down his right hand and dropped his shoulders. He’d lowered his head, refused to meet with Guy’s unbelievable gaze.
Letting out a heavy sigh, Shinji slowly nodded.
Guy eyed him carefully for the longest time, reading his Team Leader’s expression and his body language, with his arms crossed on his chest.
Meanwhile, Shinji had looked down at his hands with deep scowled and guilty expression. He remembered the assassin’s blood on his hands on that day. Sighed heavily, Shinji searched for something inside his sleeves — a box of cigarette. He took one cigarette and lighted it.
“It’d happened three years after I’d found her trapped in the Enchanted Forest and bought her back home to live with me. That day was supposed to be a relaxing day for the both of us. All weeks long we’ve been dragging our feet here and day, busied ourselves with the upcoming meetings and occasions. I’d bought her, along with a few guards to our Summer Vacation Home, just to ease our minds from those hectic weeks. It’d supposed to be a fun day for all of us, until one of the many assassins that wanted me dead, had managed to break through our security system. He’d — found me, cornered at the balcony of the mansion together with the then twelve year old Mika. The guards who had been guarding us, were all been killed by him. The assassin had been a brilliant and skillful man who was great at doing his job.”
Shinji sighed heavily.
“Being my Chosen Apprentice, Mika had gone through a lot of trainings in order to protect me — that was what she’s there for after all — protecting me. Mika knew and well-aware of that, of course. I’d given her a choice; to become my Chosen Apprentice or to become a freeman. After thinking long and hard of how easy her life had been as a Spirit Princess back at the castle; having people around, willingly to die and protect her instead. She’d made up her mind to become my Chosen Apprentice when she was nine year old. A year and a half later, she’d been officially made as my Chosen Apprentice, after she’d passed the trainings and examinations. Even at an early age, Mika knew her duty very well and had taken them very seriously. She’d even willing to go to the point where she would die for me... But I wasn’t.”
He lifted his head and looked at Guy in the eyes.
“I wasn’t willing to lose her. I couldn’t — wouldn’t let a child, a girl, nevertheless, to die in my place. Never again and never will. Mika has become an important part of me. She is a family, a companion, and more importantly, a dear friend. So, instead having of her protecting me, I’d pushed her out of the way just as the assassin was charging at me with a sharp, mean-looking dagger. I’d seriously thought it was the end of me. At that moment of time, I’d forgotten that she was a Spirit, a superior being than any of us humans, hence, has greater flexibility and faster speed than me. In a blink of an eye, right after I’d pushed her away, she’d bounced back and took the blow in the gut. Right in front of my eyes.”
Guy gasped. Horrifying look evidently on his face.
Kazuo had lowered his head, suppressing a painful look on his face. His knuckles had turned pure white. He remembered the horrible memories that he, Suzumi, and everyone had went through after Shinji had lose his one friend and Apprentice.
Standing opposite them, was Haru, still with his arms crossed while his partner had one hand covered her mouth.
“Continue. Please.” Haru said, after a moment of silence.
“When the dagger got thrust into her, time seemed to have stopped as she’d stumbled backward, taking the assassin with her, as those two fell off the balcony together. By the time I’d reached to where they were, the assassin had died, and Mika was barely alive. She’d suffered excessively bleeding from her head. I had to do something to stop it and to save her, so I’d healed her. I’d gathered and used up as much Chi that I could within me to save her life — not really caring or realised that I’d almost died from forcing out so much life energy into Mika, until someone came and stopped me.”
Shinji’s eyes flickered a bit at the bitter memories.
“It was my Guardian. She had rushed over with her own group of bodyguards the moment words got out that an assassin was after me. She had been the one who’d stopped me. Gently, she took my hands away while she continued healing Mika. As I’d watched Mika being healed, many thoughts ran through my mind:
What if the next assassin comes? Could she really protect me? She might be a Spirit, but she’s not an immortal. What if I wasn’t be able to save her next time? What if I wasn’t strong enough to protect her? What if...
That was when a thought came to mind. I had to set her free from my world. In order to do that, I’d made the decision to erase her memories so that she could rebuild herself, become stronger than she was then. It was a mean and totally selfish on my part — to take away something that’s lawfully her rights, and I will take responsibility of the burden that she has to carry for the rest of my life, but it had to be done. It was the only way to protect her from my enemies. So that one day when we are able to meet again, we both could protect each other, instead of having to just rely on her to protect me. After Hiira had done healing her, I’d then placed her in front of Luyas’s Gates with no memories of her past, just her name and status as a Spirit. While I wait for the time when we are able to meet up again.”
Shinji looked down on his boots, with a small wearily smile. He had just been forced to confessed to everyone the deepest secret he’d held close to his heart regarding Mika, under a not-so-normal circumstances.
The heavy burdens that he’d kept on his shoulders the whole time every time he looked at her finally felt as if it was being lifted. And the weirdest part, perhaps the strangest part was, that he felt good about it — telling them the whole story of why he did what to Mika.
Now all he have to do was to wait for their reaction.
“Shinji.” Everyone looked at the man who ended the long silence.
“What he said, were they all true? About Mika remembering her past again?” Shinji looked up and looked Guy straight in the eyes.
“Yes. It’s just as what he’d said — when I found out that Mika had not yet recovered her memories, I was relieved. I wasn’t prepared to face with the music, with the questions she would asked me; about her past, her family, her relationship with me. But I was ready to tell her everything after the incident in Andania. But as I saw her world crumbled down, my heart won’t let me. So I’d decided to wait, until she grows stronger emotionally and mentally to face with the truth. Then, when the Clan had informed and ordered me to take Mika with me to the Red Line, I thought it was the best way for her to recover her memories — I really didn’t expect all of this to happen. I’m sorry, Guy. For what I’d done to your little sister.”
Guy eyed him with the same unreadable expression on his face for a longest time before he broke into a small smile. He untangled both arms and let them rest to his sides.
“I get it.” He nodded slowly. “Really, I do get it, Shinji. Your intention has always been to protect her, to keep her safe from harm’s ways. As a man who’d spend most of his time growing up, watching over Mika and protect her, I respect that.”
Guy walked up to Shinji, before patting him on the shoulder, firmly and stayed there — something that he had never done before.
“If it wasn’t for you, I would have never met Mika. Thank you.”
Meanwhile, Shinji was caught in surprised by Guy’s little act and words. He’d been sure the man would condemned him even more now that his secret was out in the open, and had restored into punching him on the face.
Instead, Guy had given him a tap on his shoulder, as if they were buddies.
For better or worse, Shinji was well-aware and knew the relationship he had with Guy was far from friendly — there was always a hostile transparent barrier between them due to the past they both shared.
Slowly, a small smile began to form on his lips. Shinji looked up at the man and sighed in relief.
“Hey, where do ya think ye two are going?” Kazuo’s voice caught the two men’s attention and they instantly turned to the two mysterious intruders.
Haru and Lisa had gotten up to their feet and began to walk away when Kazuo’s loud voice shouted directly at them.
The petite Captain looked at them.
“Our job here is done. I see no reasons why we should stay here any longer.”
“You’d said you could help us get out of here!”
“Huh. Did I?” Haru smirked, turning his body full degree to face them and lifted one hand in the air. All the sudden, a blue flame appeared on his palm and he directed it in front of the men.
“The Blue flame will show you the way.”
“Thank you.” Guy said again, giving a short nod to the Captain.
“Better catch up before you lose it.” He pointed at the blue flame.
True enough, the blue flame that was a moment ago standing in front of them, had disappeared!
“Where did it goes?!”
“Over there!” Guy shouted, pointing at the blue trails to the East.
“Hurry! We’ll have to catch up with it.”
Wasting no time, the trio rushed to where the blue flame was leading them.
THE next morning came when the cave was lit by the light coming from the entrance. Mika had woken up early and was just finished their belongings. Next to her, the fire was dying out leaving glowing embers.
While she was busy packing their stuff, Ren had gone outside for a surveillance — making sure there weren’t any guards around.
After having heart-to-heart talk and opening up to one another last night, the two of them formed a temporarily truce; to keep each other safe and sound until they’ve accomplished the mission.
After what had happened last night, Ren had been more cautious around her.
Bracing herself for the colder temperature outside, Mika took a step outside of the cave and immediately shivered at the difference in temperature.
The terrible blizzard and strong winds had gone but the temperature was still below zero.
Mika flinched as the cold wind hit her face and she hugged herself tightly when a man’s voice called her out.
“Mornin’, Princess.” Ren approached her with a smile. “About time you woke up.”
“Good morning. Slept well?”
“Yeah. It’s kinda cold today, though.”
Mika looked at him, blinking her eyes a couple of times.
“Well, I’m used to the weather here, so..”
Mika nodded her head. “Right. So any signs of uninvited guests?”
“No that I’ve seen any. Rest assure, I’ve set up a few traps here and there around the forest, so if they’re here, at least we know.”
“Okay.” Mika slowed down her steps before she eventually stopped. Her absence caused the Captain to pause and he turned around, looking at her.
“About last night, what you’d said to me... I’ve thought about it. Long and hard. All night long, actually. And, I want to do it — no, I would be honoured to do it.”
Ren stared at her unblinkingly for a minute before he smiled widely. He reached out one hand to her and the Princess accepted it, before he kissed at the back of her hand.
“Then, it is an honour for me to fight alongside with you, Your Highness.”
Mika smiled serenely and lowered her head in a bow.
“The pleasure is all mine, Captain. Now, let us leave. We haven’t got any much time to waste. The ‘Huzzar’ will be arriving tonight we must have everything completed before then.”