FOLLOWING the disappearance of the Huzzar, a small celebration was being held at the Kingdom of Aquarius in honour of their saviours who had defeated the Huzzar and saved the entire Kingdom. Commoners and Noblemen were very pleased to know that they too were invited to attend to the castle and joined the party by the Royal Family.
After all of them had been through for the past months, the people thought the Aquarius Royal Family owned them a great favour.
The night of the party were filled with people who happily mingled with each other, danced to the sound of the music, and eat delicious cuisines made specially by world-class chefs until their heart’s content.
All except for a group of five, who were nowhere to be seen nor were they in the mood for the party either. They had their own agenda as they made their way to highest peak of the castle — the tower.
The chamber’s door opened by a Knight who allowed the five figures behind him to enter, before the door was shut once more.
Ten pairs of eyes looked at the figure sitting on a King’s bed in the dark room with his hands cuffed to the long chain attached to the cool floor. No one would have recognised the man sitting helplessly and being chained to his own bed was the proud former King of Aquarius, King Lewis.
He wore a thick cotton robe and looked far worse than any of the five could described: his face was paled as milk and his eyes were red and puffy eyes from the lacked of sleep. Finally, the obvious dark bags underneath his eyes.
The silence cold and tense air between them broke by a soft cough from the newly appointed Queen Medea who began to speak.
“Father,” she spoke in a soft and relatively calm tone. “We all have gathered here for a reason. A reason in which we believe you have some explanations to do.
Though Medea loved and respected her father greatly, she could not, for the love of God, turned a blind eye on what her father had done in the past that had caused grieves and suffering to her people and Kingdom.
Maintaining eye contact, Medea kept her cool at the next words that came out of her mouth.
“Before we hand you over to the Master Oracle and Lord Eden for further investigation and interrogations, I would like to hear your side of the story, Father. As do the rest of us.” She reached out and grabbed his hand gently. “Please.”
Lewis sighed heavily. He dared not to meet with his daughter’s eyes or anyone else’s as a matter of fact. He bought his hands up and shamefully buried his face.
“...It was all for this sake of the Kingdom,” Lewis spoke in a soft whimpering voice. “Everything that I’ve done, was for this sake of this Kingdom! I-I had no other choice. If I don’t follow the orders, he will surely kills everyone!”
“Who is this ‘he’ person?” Ren asked, crossing his arms.
Lewis gulped and put down his hands. His fingers wrapped around nervously on the thick blanket that covered his legs.
“H-Haemon...” Clenching the blanket tightly, Lewis forced the words to come out of his mouth. “Of the Haemon’s Enterprise.”
Shinji’s eyes grew widened at the mention of the name.
“That’s a lie.”
“Shinji?” Ignoring the others, he approached the King, and said in a harsh whispering tone.
“Did you say Haemon Enterprise?”
The King slowly nodded.
“Oi, ye know something about it, Shinji?” Kazuo asked, frowning at his friend’s sudden coldness at the mentioned of the name.
Shinji eyed the former King sharply, before he nodded.
“I’ve heard of the name before. But it can’t possibly be the same Haemon as the Haemon Enterprise was shut down years ago. From what I’d heard, the CEO of the company died in a tragic death. On top of all that; he’d left no heirs behind whatsoever. The company was destroyed not long after his death by an individual with a deep grudge against Haemon. His people died in a gruesome way from what I’d heard.”
“T-That’s impossible! I’d met with Haemon himself a few months ago b-before the first Spirit’s Invasion in Andania. H-He’d asked me for an information on something, in exchange of something else!”
“What was the exchanged item?” At his nephew’s question, Lewis kept quiet and fidgeting his fingers with the blanket instead.
“Answer the question, Father.” Medea spoke after a long pause.
“A-An old map. In exchange for the map, the imposer had promised me the Kingdom of Aquarius will be kept saved and protected from the Spirit’s invasion.”
“Yet, you’d ended up having to almost sacrificing your one and only daughter by pulling a crazy stun like that? Seriously, what kind of a father would believe in urban legend craps anyway?” Kazuo snapped.
“Kazuo!” Ren harshly hissed. Though, he’d agreed very much with his friend’s words, he was still being quite disrespectful to the former King.
Lewis lifted his head and met with his daughter’s beautiful gaze.
His precious little girl.
“You have to understand, Medea... Whatever that I’ve done in the past, I did it with the best interest at heart for this kingdom and its people. For you, Medea. Everything that I had done is because of you.” His eyes shifted from Medea to Shinji and others.
“My Kingdom had just being rebuild after suffering from the wrath of the White Wolf Clan and long season of draught. We’d desperately needed help, yet, I’d been too proud to ask for one. One fine day, Lord Ranfel came to me. He’d offered me a solution — a salvation to my desperate plead for help. He’d informed me if I agree on helping him, I would no longer need to live in fear of my enemies — especially the White Wolf Clan, whom I’d have grudges over the years.” The former King glared sharply at Shinji, whom chose to ignore it.
The bitter history between his Clan and the Kingdom of Aquarius still ran deep in some of his people’s veins, especially the older ones.
“Lord Ranfel had explained the situation very well. Although I had been highly tempted by his plans, I’d rejected his proposal nevertheless as I did not want my hands to get dirtier than they already were, especially and not certainly by his greediness and selfishness.”
“The man has no pride. He’d threatened me about the unfinished dam construction project that was currently put on hold at Luyas. He’d said he would give out my name to the White Wolf Clan and then have my castle invaded and have my family killed by the member of the clan named Hazel who loved nothing more than to avenge for his family’s death ― just like what had happened to his family!”
From the corner of his eyes,Shinji watched Guy tensed at the mentioned of the name. Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath.
Guy gasped. Though he had confronted Shinji regarding his mother’s murderer, it was still painful for him to hear about it. What was even more surprising was that his father was involved with the murder as well.
Guy clenched his fists tightly.
His father would do anything — even the impossible — when it comes to power. Though, Guy still had no idea what drove him to do it, he knew his father well enough and was positively sure it must had been one of his schemes to keep the enemies away and gained more power.
Guy let out another long sigh when he felt a hand, tapping him on his left shoulder gently. Turning his head around, he saw Kazuo gave him a short, sympathy smile.
“What about these letters?” Shinji broke the silence. He showed the former King the threatened letters. “What’s the meaning behind it?”
“I don’t know.” Lewis stuttered.
“Tell us the truth, Uncle!” Ren urged firmly.
“I don’t know!” Lewis hissed and glared at his nephew. He looked up to the rest and said, “I’d freaked out when I found out about these letters because someone had abducted my little girl and threatened to kill her. Listen, I’m guilty for what I’ve done and put this Kingdom through hell these past few months. But trust me when I say that I have absolutely no idea what’s going on with the Spirits Invasion whatsoever. I was as shocked as you were when the first time I’d heard news about them.”
“So that’s the cards he’s playing right now?” Shinji sipped on a cup of hot tea served to him by the maid in the Queen’s private Reading Chamber — after a long and unsuccessful night of interrogating the former King.
Lewis had insisted that he did not know anything else except that someone had threatened to kill his daughter, hence, drove him to act the way to do what he’d done. As for the Baron’s Portal, he’d refused to tell them. Even after being repeatedly persuasion from Medea, the former King had refused to give in. In the end, they were forced to leave the matter to Lord Eden’s and the Master Oracle’s hands.
Before they’d left, Lewis had apologised to Medea for all the things he’d made her went through, but insisted that he’d done it with the best interest at heart. For her owns’ sake and also, for the sake of this Kingdom’s future.
Medea had been in deep silence since arriving at the Reading Chamber.
“Apparently so.” Medea sighed, massaging her now throbbing forehead. Now that her father had been arrested until further notice, as the newly appointed Queen, there were so much things that needed to be done, considering how much damaged were done in the past that kept hidden not only from the people, but from herself as well.
Medea briefly wondered what other things had her father kept in secret from everybody that she was unaware of. One thing she was grateful for though, was that she didn’t have to do it all alone.
Turning to her left, she met with her older cousin’s soft gaze. Ren’s previous position as the First Knight and became the Queen’s Bodyguard. His position as the First Captain was being replaced by Ratz, who had been more than happy to accept the position and becoming the King Consort.
“I’m sure as hell glad we made it all alive last night!” Kazuo munched the croissants served on a plate. The man had suffered a few broken ribs, cuts and bruises on his torso and arms from last night’s ordeal.
“After all the shit we’d been through, it’s a miracle we didn’t end up dead!”
Guy smiled wearily at his friend’s comment. He too had suffered a couple of broken ribs and some cuts and bruises here and there. But overall, they both looked relatively well.
At least the worse was over and done with.
Now all they need to do was to go to the Red Line and put an end to whatever that had broken the powerful barrier once and for all.
Speaking of which...
“Has anyone seen Mika?” Guy decided to ask after a long silence.
“I haven’t seen her since breakfast this morning.” Medea stated, blinking her eyes.
“She’s in the Royal Gardens.” Ren stated. “Her Royal Highness wished to see the beautiful flowers blooming in the garden, so I’d escorted her there before we left to see Uncle.” His lack of formal address to the former King noticed by the rest.
The sound of a chair being pushed back was the only sound that echoed in the otherwise silence room. Wordlessly, Shinji head to the place where his Chosen Apprentice was said to be.
MIKA sat down on the green field in the Royal Garden, surrounded by different type of flowers. The cold night wind blew her hair gently, like a mother’s stroke.
Mika kept her knees up against her chest. She has a few plasters on both cheeks and across her nose from last night’s injuries, and few ugly bruises and cuts on her body parts and upper arms from the Soul-Binding Strings. She sighed in relief. It felt kind of nice to be alone once in a while. Now that the Huzzar was gone and the Kingdom of Aquarius was saved, she finally got the chance to be alone with her thoughts.
The first thing that came to her mind was her past, and Shinji. By now, he must have already figured out that she had recovered her past memories. They just didn’t have enough time to spare to talk about it until now.
Now that the Huzzar’s gone, Mika found herself feeling extremely nervous on how she was going to face this problem.
It wasn’t her fault to begin with. Shinji’s intention had been good and pure. He’d done what he thought was the best way in order to protect her — to make her stronger so that she may be able to protect herself in the future.
By erasing most of my memories? Couldn’t he done anything else beside that? He could. But he chose to take even everything away from me! If anything, he’s the one who should apologise to me! Her inner-self argued.
Mika knew she should be angry at Shinji because despite his noble intention, she had suffered greatly over the years.
All the sudden, realisation hit her hard.
Mika finally knew why the topic had been so heavy on him: he had been merely a child at the age of fifteen, when the incident happened.
On top of that, Shinji must had been in great panic and traumatised — having forced to watch her fell off the balcony with the assassin and then witnessed as she bleed herself to death.
Those were already in the past. There’s no use arguing about it with him now. Her inner voice gently reminded her.
Soft footsteps came behind immediately caught her attention. Mika did not bothered to turn around. She knew who it was based from his scent alone.
Shinji had to keep a cool façade when in reality, he was an emotional nervous wreck.
Of course, he had been preparing for this talk long before they had even begun this journey. Still, with everything that happened around and to them, Shinji would be lying if he said that he had forgotten all about it... Until a certain midget had decided to meddle in his own damn business!
But it was now or never.
Shinji was almost positively sure Mika would demand an explanation after having been forced to wait for five long years.
Bracing himself, Shinji walked until he stood beside her and plopped himself down on the green field.
None of them said a word as the wind continuously waved them in soft blow.
“How are you feeling?” Shinji whispered quietly, with his head down, breaking the silence.
“I-I’m doing all right. And yourself?”
Mika nodded. She glanced at him from the corner of her eyes; he was obviously struggling to find the right words to say.
“I’m sorry... For everything. For taking away what’s rightfully yours. For not being there for you for the last five years. For being extremely selfish. For not be able to protect you. I’m truly very sorry... Mika.”
Mika looked at him, really looked at him. She saw guilt and deep regrets in his eyes — something that was rarely there in all the years she’d known him.
Confidence had always been Shinji’s strength. He was the leader of the most powerful Clan. He was always brave, proud and always know what to do.
But for the first time ever, Mika saw the uncertainty and shame on his face.
Oh Shinji. Mika looked at him with sadness in her eyes.
Before Shinji knew what was happening, he felt arms wrapped them around his neck before pulling him into a tight hug.
Meanwhile, Shinji was too deeply in shock to say anything. He certainly did not expect to be pulled into her embrace either.
If anything, Shinji was half-expecting for her to scream at his face now that she has gained her memories, or punched him even.
In fact, he’d rather she did both, actually. He deserved them anyway.
No matter how justified his reasoning seemed to others, it did not change the fact that he had robbed her a piece of her life including her past and family.
“I forgive you.” Tears rolled down on her cheeks. “I understood the reason why you had to do it. Why you had to leave me. That’s why... You don’t need to carry the burdens on your shoulders anymore, Shinji.”
Shinji didn’t respond immediately. His mouth was left opened in astonishment. Eventually, Shinji circled his arms around her waist and pulled her into a tight hug.
His chin landed on top of her head, he had his eyes closed as he sighed softly.
He was finally forgiven after all these years.
“I SEE. Thank you for informing me and sorry for all the troubles you have to go through. Please keep updating us with the situation.”
After another nod from the young Master Oracle, he gently put down the phone. Turning his seat around, just in time for the door of his office opened.
Lord Eden walked in, carrying a stack of papers.
Fye sighed and rubbed his already throbbing jaws. Already, he could feel a migraine was about to invade his head mercilessly.
“You’ve got to be kidding me!” He pointed at the many stacks of paperwork on his desk.
Ever since the start of the Spirit Invasion and the ceased upcoming war, neither the Master Oracle nor Lord Eden had gotten enough sleep or a proper rest. And so, they were a little on the edge lately. Both were constantly busy themselves with work loads, at the same time, managing their own kingdom and city and on top of that, the two had agreed for a temporarily joint leadership on handling Luyas and Andania, until the day when a new leader be selected.
Wordlessly, Lord Eden walked to his table across the Master Oracle’s, took his seat, and picked his pen and starting to write on the never-ending reports.
Fye cleared his throat to catch the older man’s attention.
“Sir Leo had called in just a moment ago. He had just informed me that both missions were a great success! Aquarius is now back on its feet, and with a newly appointed Queen.”
Lord Eden looked up from his works and smiled wearily. “Excellent news indeed. How are they doing at the moment?”
“They will be leaving for the Red Line as soon as possible.”
“Both of them? The Prince AND the Princess?”
Fye nodded. “Most probably. Though, I doubt they’ll be travelling together.” He sat back down on his seat and stretched his hands.
He looked at the older Lord sitting across him. Lord Eden had been very quiet ever since he came back from interrogating the former King Lewis about three and half hours ago, as soon his men had bought the former King to his castle.
Piling the files that were neatly on his desk, Fye decided to ask what’s bothering the Lord.
“How was the interrogation with King Lewis going on?”
Lord Eden let out an exaggerated sigh. “We’ve gotten him to talk. But...” He groaned and furiously scratched the back of his itchy head.
“Either someone scared the hell out of him so badly that made him refused to talk, or he’s just being a stubborn arse.”
“We’ve gotten him to talk about the Spirit Invasion, including the abandoned Dam that he and Ranfel had apparently been working on, together.”
“Really?” Fye reacted shockingly upon the news.
“Really. He’d been cooperative up until the topic about the Baron’s Portal came out, and then all hell broke loose. Lewis pleaded guilty to all of the crimes except for the Baron’s Portal and the summoning of the Huzzar. He swore he had nothing to do with neither both of them. I, on the other hand, beg the differ.”
Lord Eden took out piles of papers from inside of his desk and handed it to the Master Oracle.
Fye looked at the bold capital letters at the centre of the cover:
’STATEMENTS OF THE FORMER LORD OF LUYAS, LORD LUYAS — STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL.′
Fye read the statements in silence while keeping his ears opened for all accounts.
“Let’s recap the case from the beginning shall we?” Lord Eden cleared his throat.
“The first time Hameon made contact with Ranfel, in which according to man, said that he’d claimed the latter was only trying to help him seeking peace after the devastating loss of his stillborn child. The second time Hameon approached him had been after the loss of his beloved wife. Ranfel had later claimed that Hameon was in need of his helps to assure his great-grandson was somewhere far away and safe. He’d requested for the Baron’s Portal, which at that time was in the care of King Lewis’s hands. And should Ranfel, agreed to those terms and conditions — which the old fool had unfortunately agreed. Hameon had later promised Ranfel protection from his enemies — mainly the White Wolf Clan, whom we all knew was the one who responsible of his beloved wife’s murdered.”
Fye put the papers down and focused all of his attention on the older man.
“In order for him to get the Baron’s Portal, Ranfel had forced Lewis into helping him — by blackmailing the former King. Ranfel had threatened to leak his name to a vengeful member of the White Wolf Clan and made sure he deserved the same fate as his beloved wife, should he refused to cooperate.”
Fye nodded. “The bitter old rivalry between them was already at their worse stage. Adding to it, Ranfel was already blinded with his hatred for the White Wolf Clan, after all. That being said, how do you explain Lewis’s protest of his involvement in the Spirit Invasion?”
Lord Eden didn’t answer. He stared at the pillars of papers on the desk in front of him. There were still many blanks that he needed to find to fill in the many loopholes in this case.
For example, if Lewis had undoubtedly and strongly denied his direct involvement with the invasion, then why had Ranfel persistently insisted that he dug a little bit deeper into the case?
Lord Eden briefly remembered the conversation he had with the former Luyas Lord late last night, when he had come to confront the man about the current situation.
“That’s outrageous!” Ranfel growled. “The old bat DARED to deny it was his idea to duplicate the portal?!”
“In his defence, he had claimed that it was you who had blackmailed and forced him to do all of your dirty bidding in the first place. Lewis had strongly claim he was indirectly involved with the Spirits invasion. He denied getting involved anything related to the Huzzar incident, and also the reduplication and stolen of the Baron’s Portal.”
“Hah! And you’d actually believe the old coward?”
“Lewis has strong alibi based from the evidences that we’ve gathered and his own confessions and statements. In addition to that, All of them are pointing out to you, my good friend.”
Ranfel narrowed his eyes. “I believe I’ve already told you everything you need to know, Lord Eden.” He spat the title and folded his arms.
Expecting the conversation to be over and for him to be left alone in misery, Lord Eden beg the differ. Instead of walking toward the heavily guarded door, the good Lord remained seated. His hands folded on his laps.
“I believe there’s something that you’re not telling me, old friend. Something that would greatly help me to crack on this case.”
Ranfel sneered. “You’re losing your touch, Milord. What makes you think I would tell you more than what I’d already told you?”
Lord Eden kept on staring at the man through the mask in silence. After a minute passed by between them in thick and heavy silence, Lord Eden sighed.
“Of course.” He got up. “I suppose it doesn’t matters to you anymore whatever happens to the world now that you’ve been locked inside the castle — safe from the jaws of your enemies. It’s a pity, though. I was hoping you would be a great help. But I guess it doesn’t matters anymore now, does it?”
Just as Lord Eden was about to knock on the door, he heard a long deep sigh coming from the former Lord.
“You’re wrong on one thing: there’s something the old bat’s not telling you. I can’t tell you what it is as I have not yet confirmed it myself. But one thing I do know for sure is that it wasn’t Hameon the one who approached Lewis that night. It was someone else. Someone with a greater grudge against the Spirit Royal Family. That’s much I know.”
“What made you so sure it was somebody else and not Hameon?”
“I’d met Hameon a few times. An old bastard like him would not casually approached a desperate King for no reasons. With Haemon, there’s always an agenda and price to pay. I’d suggest you dig a little deeper into the case, Milord.”
Ranfel knew perfectly well what he’d gotten himself into the moment he made that deal with the Devil. He knew damn well what he had done to the former King was wrong — blackmailing him so that he wouldn’t have to carry the heavy burden alone. Lewis wasn’t a Devil compared to him, nor was he an Angel either.
It wasn’t his damn fault the former King took the bait so easily and out of desperate, despite what his denials. Both knew the consequences that followed should they ever get caught by the Higher Authority.
There was no way in Seven Hell Ranfel would allowed his accomplish to walk away freely or with lessened punishment than him while he stuck behind the bars.
If he was going down, then so was the former King.
“Milord?” Lord Eden snapped out from his deep thought when the Master Oracle called him.
“Yes, Master Oracle?”
“Are you all right?” Fye asked, in concern.
“Yes... My apologies. I’d just remembered something.” Shaking his head, Lord Eden tried to change the topic. ” I seemed to recall that you were saying something about a celebration?”
“Ah, yes.” The young Master Oracle cheered up. ” I was merely thinking that we should throw in a big party once Her Royal Highness Princess Mika and her companions have return safely. What do you think?”
Lord Eden smiled. “That would be nice. After all that everyone had been through, a party should cheer them up.”
“Very well then, I shall start to make a list of it from now. Speaking of which, has our dear Miss Clarence decide on our offer yet? It would be a shame if she refuses to take up the offer, though, it’s understandable.
“Actually,” Lord Eden took out a piece letter from the file he was reading and handed it over to lad. “This letter just came in from Andania today.”
Fye read the letter diligently. Before long, a big smile appeared across his lips. Looking up, he could see the happy face of the older Lord through the mask.
In the Spirit World, Queen Reza gazed with narrowly at the crystal ball on her hand. Her plans to conquer the Human Realm failed miserably. Her army had been sent back to somewhere in the Spirit World. Her own private group of mercenaries, known as the ‘The Orders’ had betrayed and left her the moment those pathetic humans had gathered in front of the Luyas’ boarder.
“Cowards. All of them.” Reza hissed before vanishing the crystal ball and walked to the balcony to get some fresh air.
It wasn’t as if she expected them to follow her orders like loyal dogs.
No. Reza had more pride than that. She was well-aware from the very beginning that The Orders had their own agenda and would eventually leave her just as she would do to them.
In the end, everyone was just using each other — that was the unspoken agreement between them.
What Reza had never expected to happen in her perfectly well thought plan, was a dirty third party rat who’d come out of nowhere and ultimately destroyed her entire plans!
Reza gritted her teeth. She looked distantly at the glowing and sandy red land, much away from the Kingdom — the Red Line. Earlier on today, she saw a bright light flashed across somewhere over there.
The Princess and her companions had finally arrived.
Soon, they will be here. Reza thought. It’s finally time for her to be prepared for the final showdown.
Reza looked down on the old map that her dear ‘acquaintance’ had shockingly and unexpectedly given her without her request.
His words still lingered in her ears:
“That is the thing that you’ve been searching for; the location of a person you’ve seeking for a very long time.”
“Soon,” Reza whispered very softly. “Soon, I’ll be sure to find where you are... My love.”
THE Red Line, a dimension between the Human World, Fulaina, and the Spirit World. It was mostly covered with red sand and thick fogs that’d made it harder for anyone to see.
The temperature was surprisingly cold, despite the heated sand. There was no sun in the Red Line. Just cloudy clouds filled in the constantly evening sky.
Before the Great War had taken place, the Red Line was commonly used as a passage between the two realms for the people and Spirits to cross over. There had even been a bridge built for the people to cross.
Unfortunately, after the Great War, the bridge was destroyed and a powerful seal had been cast by the previous Master Oracle Loci to prevent the two races from colliding with each other again.
Years later after the Great War, something had destroyed the seal. Hence, causing the Spirits to be able to enter Fulaina.
“Achooooooo!” A loud sneeze echoed in the otherwise empty red desert.
“GAH! Don’t sneeze at my face, you stupid pineapple head!”
“S-Sorry. A-Achooooo!” Kazuo shivered. He tightened the double-breasted, thick brown coat around him.
It was a farewell gift from Her Majesty Queen Medea for saving her Kingdom and getting rid of the Huzzar. For someone like himself, it was a priceless gift to have.
“Are you all right, Kazuo? You’re not catching a cold, are you?” Guy asked, in concerned of his friend’s welfare.
“I’m all right. Just a bit c-cold over here...” Kazuo sighed tiredly.
Tilting his head to the left side, he immediately found his target. With a wolfish grin despite the cold he was having, the ginger blonde man prepared to leapt into action.
Meanwhile, ignorant to what was happening to her companions behind, Mika was busy trying to determine which direction should they be heading based from the map Shinji had given to her and a small compass Ren had given her upon their departure, when she suddenly felt strong arms wrapped themselves around her waist.
Before she had the time to react, Mika found herself being turned around and then pulled into a hard muscular chest. Blinking her eyes for a couple of times, Mika looked up to a familiar face with a wolfish grin.
“I’m cold, Princess. Will you do me an hounour to keep me warm..Please?" Kazuo said in a seductive, teasing voice as he whispered those words into her ears.
Mika merely smiled politely. Any minute now she would need to find an escape gateway from his embrace before....
“How many times do I have to tell you.... Keep your claws off MY Apprentice?!” Shinji had his gun pointed at the man’s forehead.
Kazuo froze. He’d subconsciously released the Spirit Princess from his arms, when he dodged the bullet that was aimed at his forehead.
Kazuo finally snapped out from his shock a minute later and stormed toward Shinji before grabbing him by the collar.
“The hell have I ever done to ye pretty face?!” Kazuo barked.
“Shut up! The fact that you annoyed the hell out of me made me want to pull the damn trigger!”
“What the hell was that, you son of a—”
Mika sighed tiringly as the two grown men once again embarked in their never ending battle of wits and insults before resulting in a fist-fight.
“Honestly. Even at the time like this, they can still quarrel with each other?” She shook her head.
“I suppose it’s a good thing, though.” Guy smiled beside her.
“Hmm.. With everything that has happened to us, it’s a miracle that none of us haven’t lose our minds yet. Perhaps in their own way, this is how they cope with all the stress building up within them. It’s the same as how we cope with ours by sparring, is it not?”
Mika pondered on his words for a moment before she nodded.
“I think it’s best if we take a short break. We’ve been wandering around for quite some time now.”
“Agreed. It’s break time, you two!” He called out for the two men who had just finished wrestling on the sand.
They sat on a brown picnic blanket, enjoying the silence atmosphere while munching on delicious sandwiches made specially for them by the chefs from Aquarius, and also energy bars that they’d brought along.
To show their gratitude for saving the Kingdom, Queen Medea had presented Mika a gift that would surely helped them a lot in their travel —a golden and red brochure.
Unlike any other brochure, this one contained a little bit of magic, cast by Lucy. As such, it could store anything of any size and has unlimited space.
Mika had named it the ‘Storage Brochure’.
With this new brochure, they could now travel lightly without having to worry and no longer needed to carry heavy baggage.
Shinji finished the last egg sandwich before wiping both hands with a clean wet cloak. He then took the map from Mika and observed their surroundings.
“So, where are we at the moment?” Guy asked, after he had swallowed the last piece of the sandwich.
“Judging from our given surrounding, I’ll say we’re right here,” He took a pen from one of his many pockets and marked a ‘X’ spot on the map.
“That’s far away from the Spirit’s castle!” Kazuo chirped.
“True. But it’s our only way in and out, unfortunately. There’s no short-cuts. I’ve checked.”
“I’m a bit confused, though.” Kazuo licked the leftover mustard on his fingers before pointing at the map. “I’d thought you said no one has ever been here before. So how the heck did you managed to draw a map of it?”
Shinji smirked. “It’s true when I’d said no one has ever ventured here after the Great War. But have you forgotten before the Great War our world and the Spirit World had once lived together in harmony and peace?”
“Oh. That makes sense.”
Shinji nodded. “While it is true that all references and anything that related to the Spirit race had been destroyed and demolished during and after the Great War, only the White Wolf Clan preserved some of the old significant documents for an important events, such as this. We kept it carefully and in secret as we felt it would be such a waste to throw away everything and pretend nothing good had ever happened between us and them. Moreover; destroying those documents would only mean destroying our family’s heirlooms.”
Kazuo whistled. “You guys sure have guts to keep it hidden from even the higher ups, huh? No wonder you people are fearsome and powerful — aside from the Black Raven Clan, of course.”
“You’ve forgotten only the Higher ups members of the Clan knew about my Spirit’s heritage from my maternal side. It’s hard to keep it a secret from outside of the clan. But, it’s even harder to keep it a secret from within. That’s why, I’d entrusted only one person guarding the documents known as the ‘Sacred Scrolls’.”
“It’s her, is it?” Kazuo smirked knowingly.
Shinji simply shrugged as he began to prepare for the upcoming and long trip ahead.
As time passed by; the conversation switched to more serious matters. Four heads looked down at the map, while intensively discussing their battle plans and strategies, when they sensed presences from far-away distance.
Shinji was the first to get up on his feet, followed by Mika. Immediately recognised the presences to be non-threatening ones, she relaxed a little bit but not dropping her guards.
Mika glanced at her two companions; Kazuo looked rather calm, yet she could feel tension coming out off him. On the other hand, Guy kept his head cool and prepared for anything to come.
“Well, well, well... Look who’s crawling back to us?” Kazuo grinned smugly as the three familiar faces approached them.
Makai snarled. Of course him, out of all of them, would opened his big darn mouth and humiliated him on the spot after what had happened back in Aquarius.
The humiliating the Spirit Prince had to endure after he’d woken up from passing out, was the worse kind of humiliating he had ever faced!
Deep emerald eyes pierced at the Spirit Princess — his sister, who stared back at him with a neutral expression.
Mika knew the time finally come the moment she sensed her brother’s presence nearby. Though she tried so hard to buy herself some time before the final showdown between them, in the end, Mika knew they need to settle this once and for all.
Taking a step forward, Mika stopped only a few feet away from her brother. “I’d promise, didn’t I?”
Makai narrowed his eyes, keeping his gaze on her.
“Back then before we had to battle the Huzzar, I’d told you to put all of our unsolved issues aside and focusing on winning the battle. Well then, now that has ended, it’s about time the two of us settle our own long-awaited issues without any interfering.” Mika’s last word rang like a bell to the rest of them.
“You... can’t be serious!” Kazuo barked. “Last time he’d almost had you pinned against the tree and ―” A sharp tug on his right sleeve caused him to silent.
Kazuo turned and looked bewilderingly at his friend who gazed sharply at him before shaking his head.
“But Guy, he’ll―”
“Please do not worry, Master Kazuo. Your Highness,” Leo’s deep voice broke the conversation.
“No matter how awful the Prince had treated his sister, I assure you his attitude and prospective toward the Princess have changed a lot during the course of this journey.”
“What makes you so confidence of saying that?”
“Because... If the Prince wishes for the Princess’ companions to die, you would have already be dead by now.”
Leo had the sharp edge of his axe underneath he young man’s chin, while Shinji held his gun with both hands, pointing at the Spirit’s temple.
On the other hand, Guy was being held on by Rinda, who’d clung on his back with a small blade under his chin.
Only Kazuo was being left alone. He wandered why.
“Oi, why aren’t any of you targeting me? That ain’t fair!”
“There’s no need for to waster our time threatening harm you.. Assuming how fast you’ll sink depending how much you move, mortal.” Makai spoke in a cool tone.
Kazuo looked down on his feet and true enough, his feet were quickly sinking into the quicksand!
“Don’t move too much, Kazuo!” Guy warned.
Kazuo tensed. How had he not noticed the quicksand before fallen into it?
Looking up, he saw Mika and her brother were already blade clashing with each other while his other companions stuck in their position.
“I’m sorry to have to do this to you, Guy.” Rinda apologised. “Kazuo, if you be a good boy and listen to what the old man has to say, I promise I’ll help you get out of there. It’s very important. Please? For me?” Her pinkish eyes were begging him.
The last time Kazuo had looked into her eyes, they were filled liveliness and cheerfulness. Now as he looked into those eyes again, they were filled hardship and long sleepless and restless nights.
Kazuo knew some of the missions Rinda had done for Lord Eden during the war were often dangerous and deathly.
Rinda had told him last time they’d met that she nearly got herself killed once. But more often than not, she had cheated Death and survived.
Kazuo slowly nodded. “Alright. I’m listening.”
Leo lowered down his weapon and stepped away from Shinji. Rinda did the same with Guy. Silence filled in between them except the background of the Spirit twins who currently engaged in a heating battle.
“All the Prince ever wanted was to find the reason why Mika had left him that fateful night when he’d came to the White Wolf Mansion in order to bring her back― a year after the Great War in which she was assumed to have died in the hands of the Humans.”
Shinji’s gaze softened. He had known it was Makai who came that night, but knew very little exactly what had happened between them. When Shinji had eventually found his young Apprentice, she had been still crying her eyes out in the forest, with her attire dirtied and torn.
“His Highness has always see the Mankind as weak and pathetic beings. Though he sees them as a form of weakness, the Prince had never bore hatred toward them due his beloved father’s belief in them and educated him. However, after being rejected and left alone by the Princess, His Highness’s hatred toward mankind and the need to seek revenge against them became a burning fuel that had kept him breathing all these years. My Prince has long fallen from grace. He has failed to see the goodness in mankind that his father had often told him about. Moreover, to add his bitterness, when he’d failed to bring his sister back, he had to hold on to his part of the deal he made with the Queen — by becoming her puppet.”
Leo proceeded by telling them what the Prince was forced to go through over the past years. All of his losses and suffering, the reasons behind his hatred toward Mika.
He knew he was in for a big trouble when the Prince found out about this, but the older Spirit had enough and thought it’s high time someone else hear his side of the story.
Silence once again filled in after Leo had done telling them the story. The sound of blades clashing was getting closer to them, before a gust of strong shock wave heading toward them, forcing
Shinji and the others to evacuate immediately.
“Why do you still insist fighting for these pitiful humans who are below your feet?!” Makai roared, bringing his blade forward and clashed with Mika’s twin blades.
“They’re not ALL that bad! Moreover, I refuse to stand here and let you mock my friends like that, Makai!” Mika brought her blade forward and nearly got his head skewered.
With nothing but sand around them, the two Royal siblings continuously danced around each others with the deadly blades.
Makai dodged at one of her blade thrusting forward at him. The Prince would never admitted it, but Mika had surely gotten stronger since the last time they’d fought.
Her confidence, agility, endurance, and speed were twice as much as before. If not, more than that.
They were evenly matched with his own.
What caught Makai’s attention the most was her eyes. Unlike before when she was confused and scared of fighting him, right now, those eyes were burning with determination.
Their blades clashed again before both took a few steps away from each other.
Makai breathed heavily and wiped the sweats off his damp forehead. He glared at her with the same emotions in his eyes that Mika remembered seeing years ago.
Mika too was trying to catch her own breath.
“What’s so good about these humans that you are so willing to protect them? They’re pathetic, weak, greedy and selfish. They care not of others and only for themselves. Why wasting your time with them anyway?”
Mika looked at her brother, before she lowered her head and gazed on the ground.
“It’s true... They have flaws. Many despicable flaws. But you know Makai; it is because of their flaws that made them special. They are very fragile beings, controlled by emotions. Unlike us, they do not possessed strengths or abilities that made us Spirits unique and cold-blooded... We fight for survival. Our kind is a lot different from them mainly because we are controlled by our instincts to survive in any situation. Meanwhile, Mankind is controlled by strong emotions. Emotions that drive people to do greatness or destruction. Some even went as far as doing the most unthinkable things for the sake of their loved ones.”
Mika briefly remembered being told by Guy words the former King Lewis had said to his daughter before being taken away by Lord Eden’s men;
“Whatever that I’ve done in the past, I did it with the best interest at heart for this kingdom and its people. For you, Medea. Everything that I had done is because of you.”
“Others want to be like us.” The Spirit Princess remembered her adoptive father’s obsession with great power that had caused a lot of chaos and destruction.
“I may not know what you’ve been through the night after we went our separate ways... But even so—”
“So you do remember?” Makai cut in sharply. “I heard rumour has it that you’ve gained your memories.”
“Yes. I remembered everything now. I remember the huge cake we had on our fifth birthday? The snow castle that we’d built on our sixth?” Mika smiled nostalgically. “Those were great times.”
“But the one that I most remembered was the present you’d given me on our seventh birthday; a necklace with two different types of trees; Maple and Redwood. They were meaningful too — a promise we’ve made to keep.”
“Yet you’d selfishly and heartlessly broke it! You’d left ME, sister. You’d refused to come back with me to our home because you got sick of everything that you often took for granted!”
Mika lowered her gaze on the sand. She felt as if thousand needles were piercing her heart at his words.
“Do you have any idea how much I’d suffered after you left me? I’d been at the edge of losing my insanity and had been ready to end my life if it wasn’t for Leo who had stopped me and encouraged me to live on not for the sake of the Kingdom, but for myself so that I may be able to inherit the throne someday. It was a far away and impossible dream. But that impossible dream’s what had kept me safe and sound all these years! I’d forced myself to endure numerous tortures and humiliation from that bloody old wrench! I’d thought that if I show the people how much I love my kingdom, they would come and finally acknowledge me... But all they ever wanted was their beloved ‘Princess’ back.” Makai spat bitterly at the emphasized word.
“Princess who’d never gave a shit when she decided to abandon everyone!”
Mika was at loss for words. She knew she owned her brother and everyone back home a whole lot for what she had done to them.
A sincere apology could never be enough to tell him how regretful and guilty she really felt.
They said actions speak louder than words alone.
That was what Mika intended to do when she approached her brother unarmed. Her twin blades had been tossed aside much to the surprise reaction from her companions and his.
What was she thinking? Worry quickly overwhelmed Shinji as he watched his Chosen Apprentice marched toward to the brat. He didn’t trust. Not now and maybe not even in the —
His eyes suddenly grew widened, and Shinji suddenly lose his breath.
EVERYONE watched stunningly as the scene unfolded quickly; upon reaching Makai, Mika caught him off guarded by wrapping her arms around his neck, and pulled him into a tight embrace.
“Well, this is certainly unexpected.” Leo muttered after a moment. Kazuo inattentively nodded, standing next to him after Rinda had rescued him from the quicksand.
“Does she realised what she’s doing? S-Shouldn’t we like... Help out before the brat decided to slice her in half?”
Guy gently shook his head. “That won’t be necessarily. Perhaps in they own way, this is exactly what they needed.”
“What do you mean?” Rinda asked. Confusion was written all over her face.
“I agreed with Mister Guy.” Leo nodded. “His Highness has always been the one who tried to reach out to the Princess ever since they were young. This time around, it’s Her Highness’s turn to reach out to him. In their own way, perhaps this is the best solution to resolve any their issues they have and be able to move on.”
No words were said afterwards between them. They watched the Spirit twins in deep silence.
NO one was in even greater shock than Makai himself when his sister had pulled him into a tight embrace. With his life being constantly threatened by many, Makai strive to survive. With relentless efforts and deep patience, he rose to become the top fighter in the Spirit Kingdom. On top it all, Makai learned the hard way in life to keep himself alive — keep his distance away and trust nobody but himself.
The only person whom Makai allowed himself to trust wholeheartedly was his Guardian and his beloved father’s best friend, Leo.
However recently, The Spirit Prince felt that the tall thick walls that around him over the years slowly started to crumble.
Makai gasped softly when he finally got over the shock. His estranged sister was still holding him close. If it had been any other people, no doubt Makai would have killed them in a heartbeat.
Just this once... Makai contemplated. He would let her held him this way.
“I’m sorry.” Mika’s whispered softly. “I’m sorry for causing you such great pain, Makai. For being selfish and left you alone in the dark. I shouldn’t let go of your hands when you had offered them to me that night. I should have gone with you and fight for our home. Our kingdom and people. I don’t expect you to forgive me, but I don’t know what else to say except that I am regretfully sorry. I’m sorry.”
Makai’s body remained still and tense, but he did not pushed her away. His fingers played with the tips of her scarlet medium-length hair.
A moment passed by them in a comfortable silence.Finally, Makai decided that he had enough of this moment. Sighed rather awkwardly,he gently tapped on her arm a few times before muttered for her to let go.
Mika slowly released her brother from the embrace. Wishing how she could still hold him for a bit longer, Mika sighed. Knowing Makai, it was a rare chance to be able to embrace him like this after so long. There was a high possibility that she would not get the same favour from him ever again.
Mika looked at the Spirit Prince who, to her surprise, chose to avert his eyes from her. His face was red.
Makai composed himself, and without a word to his sister, he walked to where his companions were waiting.
Leo and Rinda couldn’t stopped themselves from grinning from left to right at his red-painted face and the awkward way he walked when Makai ordered them to leave.
It was absolutely adorable.
“Makai!” Mika called unexpectedly when he was distances away.
Makai halted. Reluctantly, he turned around to face with the Princess. All of years of buried hatred and grudges seemed to falter altogether at the next words coming from her.
“I love you.” Mika smiled warmly at him. “I will always love you, Makai. No matter what.”
If Makai’s face turned darker shades of red at those words. He snarled at her before stomping away to clear his head before the final battle with the Spirit Queen.