SOMEWHERE in the Rocky Mountains, three gunshots being fired echoed the silent rocky mountains. Two of the three bullets went through a Tiger Beast’s skull that was charging at a group of four. “Nice shot!” Kazuo whistled soundly...
SOMEWHERE in the Rocky Mountains, three gunshots being fired echoed the silent rocky mountains. Two of the three bullets went through a Tiger Beast’s skull that was charging at a group of four.
“Nice shot!” Kazuo whistled soundly.
Shinji blew the smoke coming from his gun and smug.
“As impressive as always, Your Highness.” Guy nodded. He too was amused with the accuracy of Shinji’s shooting skill.
A strong pat on his shoulder jerked him from his thoughts. Turning his head around, Guy came face to face with the oldest man of their group.
“There’s no need for ye to be all formal with him, ye know. Ye one of us now! Ain’t that right, darlin’?” Kazuo grinned widely, waiting for his darling girl to answer.
Instead, only the silence air answered back.
“Mika darlin’? Weird. She was here a moment ago.Where the heck did she went off to now?”
Approaching the dead Tiger Beast, Mika lowered one kneel on the ground, and silently said a prayer. After her prayer, she took a small knife on her sleeve’s pocket and started to cut the skin.
Mika then cut the beast’s stomach wide opened, the thick smell of blood filled in the air but it didn’t affect her at the very least. She then gathered the meats with a cleaned cloth, and then wrapped it as neatly as she could before putting them inside her bag pack, and made her way back to her fellow companions.
“These meats should last us until late evening, at the very least. While I quite like the view from up here, the heat of the sun is starting to get on my skin.” Mika wiped the sweats on her forehead.
“Tell me about it. At this time of the year, wish I was at the Northern Regions; at least it’s a lot cooler there compare to here! Right, Shinji?” Kazuo winked and playfully elbowed at the man.
“Tch. If you wanna leave, go on ahead and do so,moron! No one’s stopping you.”
Shinji walked ahead of them, all the while, grumbling under his breath.
The others walked down the steeped ground casually behind their hot-headed leader. They carried on the conversation between them.
“So what’s in the Northern Regions?” Mika finally decided to ask.
“Eh, ye don’t know? Didn’t Shinji ever tell ye?”
The Spirit shook her head.
“Ah well, can’t really blame him for that. He really hates the Prince over there. There are plenty of good things. Like the food, culture... And girls.” Kazuo winked.
He laughed aloud at the Princess’s soured face. “I’m a man! Deal with it. Anyway, I’d only went there occasionally — when Shinji has his Princely duty with the Black Raven Clan.”
“The Black Raven Clan?”
“Yep. Another powerful clan that could rival with the White Wolf Clan. Heard of ’em before?” He asked Guy.
“Indeed, I have. The Noblemen in Luyas talked about them a lot. Especially the craft men. they’d admired the works that’s been done by the Black Raven Clan. After all, the clan is known wide world as the Masters of Craftsmanship.”
“Yeah, but they’re more like Master of transportation－their transportation is the greatest and really fast compared to the usual transport. Oh, and it’s a living thing too!”
“Really?” Mika and Guy shouted in surprise.
Kazuo nodded. “Yea. they use Eagles as their main transports. Gigantic eagles with big wings soaring through the skies. It’s quite fantastic to see, actually.”
The trio continued chattering as they walked on down the steeping Rocky Mountains.
After an hour and half of hiking down the mountain, The four friends finally reached to a small town just in time for dinner. They found a rather luxurious inn where Shinji had immediately checked them all in for the night.
After they had checked in, they went for dinner at the inn’s restaurant. They dined and enjoyed the local cuisines, filling in their starved tummies.
After almost an hour, the four of them slowly headed back to their separated bedrooms: one room for the men and another separated room for Mika.
“I’ll go wash up and go straight to bed. See you guys in the morning!”
Mika waved her hands cheerfully before she closing their bedroom door. Her room was located only a few rows away from them.
Decided to try for a bath at the inn’s hot spring, Mika went to her room, gathered her toiletries and made her way to the hot spring.
While the only female companion in their small group went off to the hot spring, the other male companions whom all had already freshened up continued with their rest.
Shinji was on his bed, wearing a pair of glasses, and silently reading the local newspaper while two of his companions were playing a game of chess, on the small coffee table.
Once a while, he would peaked at those two playing, and smirked victoriously at the losing player.
“GAH! Can’t believe I let ye beat me again and again!”
Guy chuckled at his friend’s frustration over a board game. He had forged a bond and grown closer with the blonde fighter.
While Guy admitted that he still held a bit of distrust and grudge over their team leader, nevertheless, he respected and acknowledged him.
The two of them learned to cooperate and keep each other alive during the battlefield.
“Shall we go ahead another round then?”
“Pass! Mind games ain’t really my thing, ye know.”
Kazuo smirked briefly before he went to the wooden table where there were free beverage drinks served. He poured a jug of water into an empty glass and gulped it down desperately.
“I swear you are – most definitely – a fish in your past life.” Shinji spoke in a deadpan voice, flipping the next page of the newspapers.
Kazuo swallowed the water in his mouth. “And whose fault do ye think is it,huh? Who was that selfish bastard who finished up all of our water bottles supplies while we were dehydrating up on the mountains, huh?”
Shinji innocently flipped the pages.
“Don’t be such a drama King. I did offered to kick you from the mountain’s top a while back ago.”
“Why ye little....”
A soft cough coming from the third member of their party.
“Gentlemen. As much as I would like to watch the two of you banter each other all night long, I do believe we have some other important things to discuss?” At Guy’s sudden remarked, the two men quitted their little banters.
Kazuo went over to his single bed, with a glass of water on one hand.
“He’s right. There’s something much more important we need to discuss.”
Kazuo glanced at Shinji who remained calm and continued with his reading.
“The man at the counter was giving us a weird look at Mika. Do ye think he would recognised a Spirit when he sees one?”
The newspapers flipped.
“What about it?” Shinji asked calmly.
“Aren’t we gonna do something about it? Or do ye wanna wait till a mob of angry villagers realized they have a Spirit in the town and stomp over here?”
“Indeed. That would be troublesome if that happens. We’re a bit out of stock too at the moment. I was hoping we could re-stock first thing in the morning before we have to depart again.”
Kazuo nodded. He had already filled the man up with what had been going on with them thus far, including meeting with Mika’s long lost twin brother.
The latter did not take the news too well.
“I’ve paid the cashier an extra cash, if you two still haven’t noticed. Besides, what would do you suggest for us to go then? We can’t leave this town at this late hours. They closed down the main gates at night. We don’t even have any leftover batches of clean clothes to wear. The only clothes that we have left that’s closest to clean, are these worn-out robes.” Shinji pointed to his brown robe on the couch.
“She will be fine as long as she stays in her room the whole night.” Shinji put the newspaper aside before getting ready to bed.
“Still...” Kazuo frowned dubiously. He couldn’t help but to worry over the Spirit Princess.
When all the sudden, an idea came to his mind. He had a mischievous glint in his eyes.
Guy looked oddly at the ginger-blond man. He rose an eyebrow raised when a mischievous grin appeared on the man’s face as he crawled off from his bed, heading toward the door.
Klik!— the sound of the door unlocked and opened.
“Weeell, seeing as how worried I am about our beloved Princess, maybe I should make sure she gets her beauty sl–”
–CRASH! The sound of a table lamp along with its wires still attached to it, landed on the floor near lecherous man’s feet!
It not only caused the ginger-blonde man to halt, but it also nearly made his heart stopped pumping altogether.
Under Shinji’s dark gaze, Kazuo froze.
“J-Jeez, man! I was just jokin’! Ye don’t think I’d actually go to her room, did ye? Guy, help me out here!”
When Kazuo faced his other companion for help, instead of the usual calm and collected young man, he found himself caught in an icy cold tone of voice belonged to the man himself.
“Sneaking into a young maiden’s room in the middle of the night... How interesting.”
Guy, who had his back faced at the man while he was busily cleaned up the chess set and put it back to its place, finally turned his view at the man in hand with an unlikely smile —an almost eerie smile, despite his calm and collected appearance.
Still with the smile, he advanced on the older man; an ominous dark aura seemed to have surrounded him.
Kazuo looked a bit worried and backed away from the latter, while Shinji simply raised one eyebrow.Secretly, he found himself liking to where this end.
STEAMED air came out from the inn’s hot spring as the sliding doors opened and revealed one very happy and satisfied young female Spirit walked out after a long relaxing bath.
Mika sighed longingly.
It had been a long time since she had, since they all had a nice and proper bath. Most of the time, the inns they’d been were all three stars — meaning she had to endure with a quick and cold bath before one of the men started to bang on the door and told her to hurry up.
Singing a tune as she changed into a more comfortable clothes; a simple white shirt and dark long pants, Mika made her way back to her room, not forgetting to put on a red cap and a pair of fake cheap glasses.
While it may be strange wearing a cap and sunglasses at night to some, the two accessories were personally chosen and bought by Shinji in order for her to hide her identity as a Spirit to prevent getting caught by the Knights from Luyas, Mika was to wear it whenever they entered a town.
Climbing up the stairs, Mika glanced to the nearby glass window. The weather outside was cold. Therefore, not many people roamed around the streets.
It was also late, closed to midnight.
Just as Mika was about to leave, something had instantly caught her eyes — down on the cold street where the people who were walking back toward their homes, was a young fourteen years old lad wearing a patched worn out brown wool jacket and a simple black pants. On his head was an old worn out red cape.
He was walking amongst them.
To a human’ eyes, there was nothing wrong with the lad. However, for a Spirit, Mika bid the difference. She felt a strong unusually familiar scent coming from him－as if he was calling out to her to follow him.
Mika tried to get rid of the scent from her system but no matter how hard she tried, it was difficult and she ended up failed to do so.
“That kid, something is definitely fishy about him. No human has that strong scent. Definitely not a human child.”
Decided to be noisy for once, Mika climbed down the stairs and rushed to the exit, hoping to catch up with the lad without him noticed her.
It didn’t took Mika long enough to trail after the suspicious looking lad wearing a red cap.
Twenty minutes of carefully trailing him without being suspicious or get caught, he turned to a sharp corner at the end of the town.
Mika followed him steadily. The lad continued to brisk walked, heading straight ahead for another twenty minutes. Occasionally, he would looked to his left and right. Unnoticed by anyone or Mika, a mischievous grin formed on his lips.
Finally he stopped in front of an old abandoned mansion — isolated and far away from the town.
The moon light ray’s shone on the mansion; making it looked like a haunting house in one of the old horror books Mika suddenly remembered, was Guy’s favourite.
Mika hid behind an oak tree, a good distance away from the lad who stood still in front of the mansion’s gates. Her eyes caught the look of the mansion and soon she found herself shivered in cold.
“Can’t believe I’m actually remembering the horror book Guy had FORCED me to read when we were kids — especially at inappropriate time like this!” She said to herself.
Shaking her head at her own idiotic mind, Mika decided to focus on the boy.
The lad looked to his right, left and back again before he shouted in unmistakable language that left her gasped for air.
A gate mysteriously appeared and opened the moment the word left his mouth. With one foot in, the lad looked to his left and right before he entered another foot and disappeared into the darkness.
Mika swallowed a big gulp on her throat. She knew that word too well. But how was it possible that he knew it too when Shinji had clearly told her that the Aspaniac language itself had been completely destroyed after the Great War?
Decided to move ahead, Mika entered the gates slickly and cunningly before the door closed. The front door closed as quickly as it had once opened.
Trapped inside, Mika couldn’t see anything inside — not even a slight hint of light!
Tuck! Mika held onto her breath.
In complete darkness, if Mika crinkled her eyes a little bit, she would see a dim light coming — not from the inside of the mansion, but from the hidden basement a few metres away from where her currently stood.
A faint sound of children’s whispering voices came from the same direction.
Carefully, and without making any sounds, the Spirit Princess made her way toward the basement.
Once Mika have reached nearby, the dim light disappeared, and once again, she found herself in a complete darkness.
A sound of giggles surrounded her.
Alerted, Mika had her hands readily on her weapons. Taking a deep breath, she slammed the basement’s doors, with her twin blades readily on hands. Her eyes widened at the sight before her.
Even with the moonlight, she could made up what they were based from their features; sharp pointed ears, three purple scars on each cheeks and the most obvious; the bi-coloured eyes.
The room suddenly lightened up by a bright white light; blinded Mika and caused her to shield her eyes.
“So you came. Finally.” Spoke a young male voice.
Mika had to blink her eyes several times to get used of the bright blinding light. She had her weapons at the front and her guards up.
Once her eyes had adjusted to the light, only then, Mika finally saw the lad she’d been tailing earlier, sitting on a wooden chair like a King, surrounded by a large mob of children, aged between nine and fourteen.
Mika finally got to take a good at the lad without the worn out coat and red cap; he had a messy brownish blonde hair with a golden and dark brown eyes; respectively. He wore an old long sleeves shirt with a red t-shirt, a long baggy pants and a pair of worn out combat boot.
The young lad smirked widely.
“Welcome to my lair, lady. I was getting worried you would get lost.”
“You knew I was tailing?”
“Of course he knew! Rom’s here the best sensor of all of us! He could sense anyone or anything miles away!” Stated a younger boy who was sitting next to the boy named Toma, all too proudly.
“Is that so?”
The boy nodded. “Yeah! He’d told us he sensed a strong presence coming from that dreadful town – a Spirit! And that he was going to bring whoever it was back to the lair! That’s you, lady!”
“That’s enough, Toma.” Rom patted his ten year old brother’s head affectionately.
Another boy, Luke, who was the same age as Toma, smiled shyly back at him, before putting a strong front at Mika.
Rom got off from the chair and started to walk surrounding the Spirit Princess. He observed her head to toe before he rapidly nodding his head.
“Hmm... Not bad.”
“What are you looking at?” Mika frowned deeply and crossed her arms. If she hadn’t know any better, he was checking her out. The little brat!
While it rarely happened to her before (with the exception on Kazuo), Mika found it odd that it was happening to her now. Back in Luyas, she had seen many men, regardless of age, checked Luna out.
“Nothing to be worry about, sweetheart.” Rom smirked. “All right, fellas! I’ve made up my decision.”
“You have, Rom? What it is? Tell us!” Urged one of the children excitedly.
One finger pointed at Mika, Rom said, “Isn’t it obvious? This lady here will be helping us escape from this dreadful place!”
“Really, Big Brother Rom?”
“REALLY?!” It was Mika who shouted the most.
“You would really help us out, lady?”
One by one questions were thrown at her face as the children instantly gathered and surrounded her, excitement filled in their eyes.
Mika was having a hard time on how to answer them.
Meanwhile, Rom was grinning widely at the scene before him. He’d gone back to his seat on the chair, with his arms behind his head, truly enjoying the moment.
“How do you plan on helping us out, lady?”Asked one of the children.
“Yes, how do I planned on helping you out?” Mika glared at Rom.
“Piece of cake, really. All you have to do is be our chaperone to Eden. Heard of that one before, sweetie?”
Mika shook her head.
“Seriously? Well it’s a good thing I scouted you out! Listen carefully, sweetheart; At the East Coast from here, there’s a city called Eden. It’s a neutral place where people like us misfits can live in without worrying much. In fact, even foreigners have made a living there for quite some time. It shouldn’t be a problem for a bunch of brats like us to sneak in there and make a living too. So, whaddaya say?”
Mika stood in silence for a while. The other children who had literally surrounded her in circle, gazed upon her. They were holding their breath, waiting for what she had to say.
After some moment, she turned to Rom.
“Why do you need my helps for? You seem like a capable leader.”
Rom snorted loudly as he sat back on his chair with one knee crossed on the other, arms behind his head.
“Duh! To get us across the border between here and Eden.Good thing about us though – is that, you don’t need any passports for kids! But you need to have an adult in your group if you wanna get through the boarder. One look of sympathy to the girl who has to care for her many young siblings would definitely melt those guard’s hearts! How brilliant is that idea?”
Rom let out a proud laughter that echoed the basement.
While the young lad was busily laughing proudly at his plan, the sound of gasps filled in the air and stopped him.
Mika had her back turned at him; at them as she stood facing the door.
“I’m sorry. But I have to decline the offer. I can’t just go on ahead and leave my comrades behind without telling them anything. They’ll be worry sick about me if they haven’t already by now.”
Gently as she could, Mika pulled one of the children’s hands off her waist. With a small smile, she patted their heads.
“I wish you all good luck with your plans though.”
As Mika began to walk out of the basement, a loud and disguised snort stopped her.
“You meant those humans you’re travelling with? You called them your comrades?”
The children who had surrounded Mika in a tight circle gasped loudly and took few steps back away from her. They shrieked in fear at the mentioned of humans.
“Stop kiddin’ yourself, sweetheart. How much are you willing to bet those guys won’t suddenly changed their mind and attack you, huh? Or suddenly leave you behind when they’ve finally realized just how much of a threat you really are to them?”
“They won’t. I trust them.” Mika said confidently, staring at the lad who was now roaming in circle.
Rom’s eyes never left hers as he searched carefully for any sort doubts in her eyes. Finally, he stopped and faced her with arms both crossed on his chest.
“Sure, you said you trust them now. But sweetheart, even a brat like me, knows trust is as delicate as a glass slipper; once you’ve broken it, there’s no returning it. If you stick with us, lady, you won’t have to be worried about all that stuff. We’re partially the same – both of us are unwanted in this land! On this earth! So why bother helping them out anyway?”
“He’s right!” One of the children shouted. “My grandpa said it was the humans’ who had started the Great War in the first place! He’d said we used to live in harmony here on this land with the humans. But when the humans had found out about the Spirit’s sacred Prophecy, they’d became greedy and even kidnapped the Spirit Princess! They’d wanted the Prophecy for themselves!”
Mika abruptly took few steps back, one hand on her head. Her head began to spin; unknown images flashed in her mind. Her heart was beating unusually fast.
“You’re all right there, sweetheart?” Rom frowned as he approached her.
“I-I’m fine.” Mika turned to the child, ignored the lad’s frowned concern at her. “Can you tell me more about it, please? About what your grandpa said?”
“No one has ever told you about it?”
Mika shook her head again, smiling sadly.
“Honestly, you must be living under a rock if that piece of history you don’t even know, sweetheart!” Rom shouted, both hands in the air dramatically. Letting out a sigh, he told her.
“Legend has it that a mysterious light shone brightly in the middle of the battlefield between the humans and the Spirits — at the Red Line where the battle took place. No one knew where the light had came from, or for what, actually. But as soon as it touched the battlefield – Boom!The Spirits who were in the battlefield, vanished. Just like that! And only the Spirits who got wiped out from the battlefield. The pathetic humans thought they had won the battle, of course. The questions are: what’d really happened to the rest of the Spirits? And what was the bright light? And why only the Spirits were taken from the battlefield? And where to? So many questions were still left unanswered until now.”
“Why is that?” At Mika’s question, Rom snorted.
“Why don’t you ask your precious human friends why. I’ll tell you why sweetheart. Majority ofthe Spirits who lived in the human world were massacred during the Great War. There were those who had miraculously survived, but very few of them managed to survive for so long; like my mother and grandpa. Those who had survived, continued to keep on living in hidden and waited. They keep on waiting for anynews or helps from the Spirit Royal Family to rescuing them from these nightmares...”
Toma went to his brother’s side and hugged him from the back tightly.
“But they never came. No one came.”
There was a deep silence.
Rom let out a heavy sigh.
“We are all orphans from the result of the GreatWar, as you can see. And, as you may have already guessed, we are what humans called ‘taboo child’ — an offspring of a human and a Spirit. There are very few of us actually. And we’re not exactly accepted by the humans or the Spirits either. The humans feared us for our abilities as Spirits, where else the Spirits loathed us for being half-breeds. When the Great War ended, we’d thought someone from the Royal Family would come lookingus — the survivors. They have to right? We are still their people after all. So we waited and waited... Hoping that someone from the Royal Family would shows up and to find someus who’d survived the war somewhat and brought us there. But they never did. We were left here; stranded among the humans who want nothing more than to end us, starving to death. When grandpa and Mum died, we were left alone to fend for ourselves. Travelled from one place to another, seeking shelters. Trying to survive, you know? But you know sweetie, I found out few years ago that the Spirit Royal escorts had been here. But they hadn’t been here to find us. No. they were here because the Princess had apparently gone missing. They’d said that she had kidnapped by the humans. Since that day, I’ve never felt so much hatred toward the Spirit’s Royal Family in my whole life!”
Mika couldn’t believe it. Her ears must have deceived her. She could not accepted what were being said to her. Her heart clenched hearing those words that came out of Rom’s mouth.
Fourteen years old. And he had to go through all of that at such age while supporting the younger ones.
What should I say to him? What CAN I say to him? That the person partly responsible for his sufferings all these years is standing right in front of him?
Rom turned his body slightly at the mentioned of his name. Instead of looking bitter and gloomy as Mika had expected him to be after telling such a heart-wrecking story, he looked straight into her eyes, with a strong and determined mature look on a child’s face.
He was waiting for her to continue.
“D-Do you still feel like going back to the Spirit World, if given a chance?
Rom’s fists tighten at her question. “Go back? Stop kidding me, sweetheart. Who would want to go back to that place where those traitors live! If they really do care about their people, they should have searched for us－or at least see if there were any survivors left. But, oh no, they didn’t bother to come because they were too busy worrying about their long lost beloved Princess!”
Mika bit her lips. Hands on her chest, clenched tightly as her heart slowly crushed over his words. Guilts began to overwhelm her.
Teeth clenched tightly, Rom took a deep breath.
“None of us wanted to involve ourselves with those arrogant Nobles and Royal family any more. Not after what they’d done to us. If they wanted us to stay here, then we’ll stay here. However, we need to find a good place to stay. Eden is by far the best choice. We could fit in easily there. And as I’ve said before, you are welcome to come and live with us too.”
Still feeling reluctant, Mika remained silence. Her head felt like it was tearingapart! She would never left her comrades behind without any reasons or explanation. Part of her felt like she needed to do something for these children. She felt like she was responsible for what’d happened even though she convinced herself that she was not the Spirit Princess.
In order to help these poor helpless children, Mika needed to leave the others.
’They didn’t bother to come because they were too busy worrying about their long lost beloved Princess!’
Those words really hit her.
How could the Royal family did such things to their own people? Isn’t it their responsibilities to put the wellness and safety of their own people above their own? These people should always be their first priority! It’s their job to protect them.
What if what the Spirit Prince, Makai, was it his name, said were true? That she was the long lost Princess? If so, then these children are her people. Her responsibility. Thus, it’s her job to protect them.
Mika glanced at Rom who had turned his back at her. He was talking to the others.
Fists in tight grip, she made up her mind.
“I will come with you.”
The moment she spoke the words, the children’s face instantly brightened up and they cheered happily.
“All right! I knew you changed your mind sooner or later, sweetheart!” Rom smirked widely.
Mika however, did not looked as happy as they were. Instead, she lifted one finger in the air and spoke in a neutral, demanding tone.
“I will join you – with few conditions which you must accept.”