Chapter 0: The Beginning
THUD. THUD. THUD.
Heavy footsteps storms harshly on the marbled floors of the empty hallways. A strikingly handsome and young Spirit King in his late twenties, wearing a piece of heavy golden armour with a family’s crest, a phoenix, printed on his chest, was running at the empty hallways in rapid speed.
With a humanised face and sharply pointed ears, he listened to the echoing and loud sound of his heart beats. His long dark maroon, tied in a high ponytail, was swing left and right as he passed through the hallways, then the corridors, and finally, he reached his destination: a dark coral painted door awaited him.
Panting heavily from the run, his trembled left hand slowly reached out to the doorknob, and held onto it for a moment. Taking a deep breath, the King mentally prepared himself for what lies behind the door.
Breathing out and at the same time, he turned the doorknob.
Two figures whom he knew and trusted with his life stood at the centre of the private chamber, stared back at him. One of them, was a tall, young male Spirit wearing a silver knightly garb, with the same phoenix-printed crest on his chest, while the other one was a beautiful, slender young woman clad in a semi-full white garb that covered most of her body parts, with an exception of her face.
She wore a silver silhouette of three wolves protection plate on her forehead.
The young King cautiously took a few steps forward. He had been told earlier, by the messenger about the bad news. Yet, he refused to believe.
But now, seeing the sorrowful expression on his two most trusted subordinates’ faces as they stood before him with a word, made him realised the news was true after all.
“The Queen?” The King asked, in a hoarse-breaking tone.
The male knight approached the King with steady steps. He stopped in front of the King, raised his hand onto the latter’s shoulder, and gently said, “My deepest condolences for your loss, my King.”
Choked on words, the King lowered his head and wept. While usually, he would never allow anyone to see him in his weakest state, he could no longer hold back his emotions at the tragic loss of the love of his life.
As the young King continuously to weep, all the sudden, a hand gently touched his shoulder. He looked up and met with a kind gaze belonged to the woman.
“Her Royal Highness the Queen may have gone to Heavens, Your Majesty. Nevertheless, she didn’t forget to leave you an honourable gift.”
The young woman began gently pulling him toward a small cradle not far away from her. Inside, there was a little pink bundle. The King abruptly froze when his eyes met with the pink bundle.
“Ferid,” said the male Chevalier informally behind him. He patted the latter’s shoulder and smiled encouragingly.
Ferid swallowed the big gulp that was in his throat and nervously marched forward to the cradle. His expression slowly changed from grief to joy when he took a peek at the infant bundled in the pink blanket, sleeping soundly.
Gently as he could, Ferid picked the sleeping infant and carefully held it in his arms.
“I have... A daughter.” Ferid said softly.
“Yes, Your Majesty.” The woman nodded. “May I present to you, The Crown Princess and future Queen of this kingdom.”
A smile broke on the grief-stricken King’s lips as he pulled the infant closer and repeatedly kissed his newborn child.
“There’s more, Your Majesty.” said the male Spirit nervously behind him. In his arms, he carried another infant wrapped in a blue bundle.
The King’s smile froze. His eyes grew widened at the sight his subordinate was holding in his arms.
“Son?” Ferid whispered.
“It was truly unexpected, Sire. The Oracle did not predict!” Golden eyes looked down worriedly at the male infant in his arms, who began to cry furiously.
The male knight softly cooed the infant in his arms, before putting him down inside the cradle beside his twin sister. Eyeing the infant twins, he decided to ask.
“What will you do with the little one now, Your Majesty?”
He trusted him. He trusted him since the day they befriended years ago when he was just a servant boy while his father had been the previous Queen’s advisor.
Ferid looked at the newborn infants blankly.
Twins. Not just any twins, but fraternal twins.
A deep frown formed on his forehead. It was rare within the Royal Spirit family to have a pair of twins, let alone, fraternal twins.
Moreover, the births of female members of the Royal family would be celebrated in such grand and excitement throughout the Kingdom as it was strongly believed that female Spirits royals were destined to bring great prosperities and fortune to the kingdom and the entire Spirit World.
Unfortunately, the same could not be said for the male royals as their counterparts, for he was believed to bring destruction and bad luck to the kingdom and the entire world.
For a while, the deep silence tension grew between the trio. His two subordinates held on to their breaths － waiting anxiously for the King to make his decision.
The male knight refused to barge from his spot, near the cradle － in case the worse possible thing could happen, he was prepared to defend the little Prince from his own father.
Meanwhile, Ferid gazed down with a deep frown, upon the two infants in the cradle. Deep emerald eyes gazed intensely at their faces before a wide smile broke his lips.
“We’ll keep them. Both of them." Approaching the cradle, Ferid reached out one hand and played with the Prince’s small and fragile fingers.
“No child of mine would bring such horrible bad lucks nor destruction to his nation or even the entire world. This Prince shall rise and helps to rule the kingdom together with his sister. Keeping it safe and sound from any unwanted threats.”
His two subordinates let out a long relieved sigh upon hearing his words.
Smiling at his King, the male knight asked, “What will you name them, Your Majesty?”
“I will name them… Makai and Mika. ‘Makai’ means ‘The Guardian’, whereas,’Mika’ means ‘The Future’s Light’, in our mother-tongue, Ancient Aspaniac. These two shall be the hopes and protectors of our future.”
The two subordinates nodded before saluted to the King and the two newborn royals.
An announcement was soon made about the births of the future Queen and the Prince throughout the whole Kingdom and beyond. The news of the newly born fraternal twins caused a great shock and different reactions amongst the public.
Most of them thought a great catastrophe would soon befall them should the Prince continue to live. Very few of them accepted the birth of the Prince with an opened heart.
News of the newborn twins eventually reached the ears of the upper-class men in Fulaina; such as the great leaders of the world. Some of them were happy to learn about the birth of the twins while others despised and even cursed them.
Time moved on fast. Before long, Princess Mika grew up in a loving environment and adored by her people. They looked up to her not only as their princess, as well as the one who destined to bring great Prosperity and fortune to the Spirit World － ‘the Chosen One’.
Unfortunately, the same kind of treatments did not apply for her twin brother.
While the Princess lived in a carefree lifestyle, surrounded by people who adored her, Prince Makai was forced to live in an isolation, for the sake of his own safety as there were many who dared to execute an assassination against him, by all means necessarily.
Even when the odds were against them, the relationship between the two royal siblings never stirred. They had a good and healthy relationship, and they were very close and supportive of each other.
On his part, King Ferid had made sure that the twins shared the same amount of love and respect from him and the servants in the Castle. Any ills-manners and words about the Prince spoke by any of the staff would be punished immediately.
As years went by and political issues rapidly arose, the King became more concerned and feared greatly for the safety and welfare of his children. Thus, in order to keep the twins safe, he had unwillingly arranged them to keep away from the public’s eyes, and confined them in a private Manor, away from the castle. He had left them a cook, few servants and knights around the heavily secured compound.
The twins lived in peace and quietly inside the manor. The only regular visitors they received over the years, were the King and his loyal personal bodyguard and advisor, whom they had affectionately referred to as ‘Uncle Leo’. Never once were allowed to step outside of the manor’s compound, with an exception of a special occasion such as birthdays.
Every year, King Ferid would throw a private grand celebration on the twins’ birthdays at the castle.
It wasn’t until on the twins’ seventh birthday where things had changed dramatically. On that same year, a war broke out between the Spirits and mankind. Blinded by selfishness and greed, men had kidnapped the Spirit’s crown Princess and wanted the prophecy for themselves.
The war was later known as the ‘Great War’. The battlefield that had taken place, was later known to many as the ‘Red Line’ － a passage between Fulaina and the Spirit’s World.
The long and hard battle between the Spirits and mankind lasted for months before an unknown force landed in the middle of the mist battlefield. It caught both sides off-guarded with an unstoppable powerful blast, thus, ending the war.
Mankind miraculously survived the blast. However, the same could not be said for the Spirits as they had mysteriously disappeared with leaving any traces at all.
Nobody knew what happened to the Spirits or where had the powerful blast came from.
After the Great War had ended, a magical and powerful seal was being placed by a man known as the Master Oracle Khulai, on a portal that connected the Spirit World and Fulaina, in order to keep the two races apart from colliding with each other ever again.
As time went by, men slowly picked up themselves and rebuilt their lives after the Great War. Very few of people knew about of the existence of the Spirits and the good and friendly political relationship they once had.
Those who had lived through the war swore not to ever forgive nor forget what the Spirits had done to their homes and families. They whispered bad words to the young ones, feeding their loathes and hatred toward the Spirits.
As years went by, the existence of the Spirits and how it had mysteriously disappeared during the Great War, was forgotten by men…
Chapter 1: The World of Fulaina
“HEY look, it's that damn Spirit knight again!" An elderly man spoke out aloud to the big crowd. Two women who were standing beside to him began to whisper loudly. "Goodness. Walking around as if she owns this bloody place? Who does she think she is? Shouldn't there be any guards around to make sure she doesn't attack anyone?"
“Lord Ranfel is truly a generous man. Only a man like him would have a golden heart to welcome such a low-life Spirit into his family’s households!” the other woman said, scornfully.
Despite the harshly criticised words being spoken toward her as she passed by, Mika, a young ‘Spirit' knight who had just recently turned sweet seventeen, kept strolling down on the busy streets of the small town named Luyas. Slender and fit, due to years of knightly intensive training, with brightly mid-length scarlet hair that reached just above her shoulders.
While Mika did not possess a beautiful nor elegantly looking features, it was certainly hard to forget. What usually caught most people's attention when they first laid eyes on her were the two distinctively elves-like ears, and a pair of thoughtful Emerald eyes that shone like diamonds－eyes that could only belong to the forgotten and once fearsome Spirit Royal family.
Gazing the busy streets, Mika made her way quietly through the crowd to her destination, all the while, keeping a tough façade at the townspeople who continuously speaking ill words at her.
In the past, whenever a few kind people had bothered to ask her why she tolerated the abuses all these years, Mika would just smile and shook her head in silence. Still being thankful to be kept alive and sane after all these years.
In truth, Mika couldn't blame them for resenting her so much due to the ugly and bitter history between them. Many of them had lost their loved ones in the Great War that happened a decade ago. Very few of them have made peace with the past and came to tolerate her presence. Over time, they have come to view her as the ‘light' to their shallow and narrow-minded society.
Apart from being thankful to be kept alive, Mika was also ultimately grateful that she was currently under the protection of a House－ the House of Heartlets, that governed the Kingdom of Luyas and whom she had sworn to be loyal and served. From what she had been told, Mika was found unconscious by one of the Knights in front of the castle’s door, at the age of twelve. Mika was bought into the castle for interrogation, and it was then when she met with the current Lord of Luyas, Lord Ranfel Heartlets XII, for the first time.
They had soon discovered that the adolescence Spirit knew nothing about her past with an exception of her name and age. Everything had moved so quickly since then. It had not taken her too long before Mika found herself being taken under Lord Ranfel’s wings and adopted into his family.
Within few minutes of walking, Mika finally reached her destination. She stopped in front of the two heavy gates, before waving one hand in the air at the guard at the tower. The guard snarled at her before opening the gates. Mika tilted her head to the left in a short nod and proceeded into the castle.
THE Kingdom of Luyas was located at the East of Fulaina, spanning an entire of the Eastern continent. It was an absolute monarchy military kingdom led by the current ruler, Lord Ranfel Heartlets the XII.
Within these walls, lies the ‘Knight's Academy', a place where all knights were required to undergo their daily training in order to graduate and become a full-fled Knight. Once they have graduated from the Academy, the knights would then be assigned to respective Brigades based on accordingly to their skills, levels, and achievements.
The Academy itself was located in the opposite building where Lord Ranfel and his family residence.
Mika entered the Training’s Hall and scanned the place. Knights were roaming around the area. A group of trainees were being trained by the senior Knights, while others were casually talking or just taking a break. Just as she was about to move and find a spot to rest her aching legs, when all the sudden, she heard a feminine voice calling out her name loudly from the opposite side.
Turning her head around, Mika instantly met with an attractively beautiful, and tall brunette with her hair tied up in a high ponytail. She had an extremely pale skin with rosy cheeks and a figure to-die-for. Bright mocha eyes looked at the Spirit knight excitedly with a wide smile.
Mika returned her smile and lowered her head in a polite bow. “Good afternoon, Lady Luna. How are you doing today?”
Luna snorted loudly while rolling her eyes and crossed her arms over her chest.
“Awful. It was truly a miracle that I had somehow managed to survive from that hell-hole place known as the Study Chamber, really.” Sighed loudly, Luna reached one hand and flipped her long smooth hair.
Looking at the best friend, she stepped closer toward her and all the sudden, flickered the other Knight’s forehead!
“Milady?” Mika stuttered, blinking her eyes rapidly at the sudden flick of her forehead.
Luna shook her head, unbelievably. “Honestly. Did I not remind you countless times to stop calling me by status? As members of the Heartlets family, you and I shared the same status, Mika. Hence, you do not need to speak formally with me even when we are outside of the castle. Understood?”
Mika sighed in defeat. Despite being told many times before to drop the formality, it was hard on Mika not to do it without the constant glares from the people around her for not disrespecting the Lady of Luyas.
“As you wish. Luna.”
“That’s more like it!” Luna beamed with happiness. “Listen to this, Mika! Apparently, the baker’s daughter is getting engaged to-” before she could get to the juicy part of the gossip, an obnoxious cough interrupted their little chat by a group of Knights.
“My, what a delightful sight to see the ever so beautiful Lady Luna here of all the places!” A tall, good-looking man with a pair of olive eyes and black, greased black hair that had been pulled to the side, winked at Luna. “Each time I lay my eyes on you, I swear you’ve grown more beautiful, Milady.”
Luna immediately rolled her eyes with utter disguise, while Mika maintained a calm façade. “Get lost, Cad.”
“Why, Milady. You wound me.” Cad winked at her again before setting his eyes on the young Spirit who stood quietly behind her. “Ah, if it isn’t the ever most eye-sore Spirit name Miya. Or is it Mirza?”
“Whatever.” Cad shook his head. “Nobody cares what your name is. So why don’t you pack up and move out to where the rest of your family is. Oh, but wait! You can’t. You don’t even know where they are!"
Together with the rest, they laughed cruelly at Mika who remained silence and calm of their insults. Their waves of laughter were joined together with the nearby pedestrians. Some of them even applauded. Luna, who had been watching the commotion, furiously gritted her teeth.
"Good day, gentlemen," said Mika finally with controlled emotions, after the laughter subsided. Knowing very well that she had no other choice but to endure it after learning the hard way to deal with all of it, was to never give in or take their words to heart.
While the young Spirit was less affected by their taunts, Luna was furious by their awfully rudeness and insults toward her best friend. Gritting her teeth and tightened her fists, she had half of her mind to give them a beating that would last a lifetime. Marching toward them, Luna took a deep breath and said, "Listen up you imbeciles!"
“Huh?” Cad stopped laughing abruptly and looked at her in surprise.
Tightening her fists, Luna pointed at her best friend. “Just what have she ever done to you to deserve this? I will not tolerate any more of your horrid insults towards her! For your information, Mika is also a member of the Heartlets’ Family! Don’t you dare think you can get away with this after speaking so crudely to her without getting any punishment!”
“Oh, I’m scared!” He mockingly said. “What are you planning to do? Tell Daddy? Please. You of all people should know Lord Ranfel doesn't give a damn about her. He's just using her for his own selfish benefits so he could boost your family status to the other Lords!”
“Watch your mouth!” Luna growled.
“Oh, but it’s true, isn’t it?” Cad sneered. “The only reason why Lord Ranfel even bothered with this Spirit in the first place was because he saw her as a prized toy — to keep his enemies away!”
“That’s enough coming from you, Cad Remus!”
“In case you still haven’t noticed, Milady, your Spirit friend here, is the only member of the disgraced Spirit race that got left behind. I bet my gold bank account they’d forgotten to take her with them when they all got wiped out from the surfaced of Fulaina!” Cad’s obnoxious laughter grew even louder than before.
Meanwhile, Mika already used to the insults had grown numb from it. Closing her eyes, she took a long deep breath and counted from one to ten in her head. It was sort of like a therapy that worked well for her most of the time. Their cruel laughter didn’t last long when Luna finally had enough and exploded.
“Damn bastards! I’ll crush you!” All eyes immediately on Luna, who looked like she was ready to pound them all straight to Hell and back! Out of nowhere, a pair strong hands held on her wrists firmly before she could land a hit on Cad.
“Milady,” Mika whispered quietly. “I understand how greatly upset you are toward these Knights at the moment. However, please remember your duties and position as the ‘Lady of Luyas' comes first and above all. Furthermore, should word reached to your father's ears about how you had illegally attacked one of your superiors, he won't let you off the hook so easily this time around. At least, not when Guy isn't here to bail you out."
At the mention of her father, Luna forced herself to calm down. Her cheeks turned bright red from anger and embarrassment. On the other hand, Cad and his Knights did not react differently nor did they felt threatened by the young lady at the slightest whom, just a moment ago, had threatened to beat them up.
Cad gave them an arrogant look before he sneered and commanded his men to leave. As the two young women watched them leave, Luna snapped her arms from Mika’s tight grip and tapped on her left foot furiously on the ground. “Why did you stop me there for, Mika? Those bastards deserved a once-of-a-lifetime beating after mocking you like that!” The disappointment was written all over her face at her best friend’s interruption earlier.
Mika looked at her adoptive sister before slowly shaking her head. True, she was grateful to have Luna as a friend and very few people who dared to stand up for her. Nonetheless, the young Spirit would never allow her dear friend to be in great trouble with her father for her own sake.
“They’re not worth it, Luna," said Mika gently. “I’d suggest you save that ‘once-of-a-lifetime’ famous beating of yours for some other time.” Smiling gratefully, Mika said, “Thanks for sticking up for me, though.”
“Fine,” Luna conceded before sighing deeply in defeat. “It’s not just me, you know. Even the Commandant and Guy have had enough of their ill-treatments and crude attitudes toward you. And you, Mika. You should never let those people pushed you around like that! Honestly, you should stand up for yourself more and not let them step all over your head!”
Shaking her head, Mika smiled wearily at her best friend’s words. She knew Luna meant well and had no doubt about her at all. Yet...
“Even if I were to stand up and speak for myself, it doesn’t change the fact in the end that it will always be my fault, one way or another. You know I can’t win against anyone here, Luna. The chances of winning are next to zero. But you know what? I'm actually fine with it."
“Sure.” Luna raised one perfectly eyebrow, with her hands on her hips. Not believing a word being spoken by the Spirit.
Sighing, Mika raised her hands in the air and admitted defeat. “Okay, I’m not fine with it, but I can at least tolerate it. I can get through anything for as long as I have you, Guy and the Commandant watching over my back. I don’t care what anyone else says or thinks about me otherwise. Also,” Mika turned to face Luna. “I know I’ve said this plenty of times before, but I truly appreciate what the three of you have done for me all these years. Thank you, Luna. Thank you for taking such a good care of me.”
A smile slowly began to spread across Luna’s lips. Before the young Spirit could respond, she felt herself being pulled into a warm friendly hug.
“You’re very welcome, dearest.” The two teens giggled happily before Luna released her from her iron grip, eventually. Together, they made their way into the Castle, all the while chattering to the latest gossip which Luna heard earlier and had then been dying to tell her friend before they were being rudely interrupted by Cad and his fellow goons.
IT had been said before the Great War happened, the Spirits were famously known to mankind as the most dangerous and feared species compared to the other two species that residence in the Spirit World. During the Great War, they were cold blood predators that lust and preyed on humans, and had been mankind’s sworn enemy since then. Therefore, when words got out about how a young lost Spirit ended up becoming a Knight of Luyas who protects humanity instead, it became the biggest laughing stock throughout the entire Kingdom!
For Lord Ranfel, though he had his reason for why he’d decided to adopt the young amnesiac Spirit, he became the ‘butt-joke’ to his comrades with an exception of the two most influential men in the Board, who were not amused by it. Rather, they were quite concerned with the idea of why Lord Ranfel had chosen to adopt a Spirit child in the first place.
The two influential Board members knew for a fact that it was due to her remarkable skill to speak fluently in the human language —something that had greatly caught everyone’s attention. Lord Ranfel, the doctors, and even Fulaina’s best scholars had found her to be extremely mysterious amusing. Their deeply rooted curiosity on the young Spirit had convinced the Lord into adopting the girl, and had her placed under the watchful eyes of an excellent and trustworthy Commandant of his army; Grants Rogue, of the New Light Brigade.
The Commandant, a tall, fit and well-built man in his early thirties, had tanned skin and perfectly combed silky dark brown hair that reached down to his shoulders, and hazel eyes that were tired from constantly working overtime. He had a little stubble that made him irresistible. Though he was a man in early thirties, Grants still looked rather young and charming. He had many young women all around Fulaina worshipping him for his tall, dark, and cool attitude.
Mika was no exception. She had admitted to openly admired and respected the man whom she viewed as a fatherly figure and a man who never judged a book by its cover. Grants Rogue had once told her a Spirit had killed his beloved grandfather during the Great War; a man whom he had greatly cherish very dearly, and had also been a Commandant back then.
While Grants had admitted to Mika openly that he still held a personal grudge and hatred toward the Spirits for killing his beloved Grandfather, he had never once purposely unleashed that rage on her. Instead, Grants chose to treat her fairly in the same way as he would treat others: be fair yet firm based on their personality, actions and performances. So far, he was highly amused and impressed with all of her performances.
Having just returned from doing one of the evening errands of the day, as soon as she finished with her duties and returned to give out her reports, Mika had asked for a permission from her superior officer for a short rest in her own private quarter. Ten minutes later, here she was, in a small and cramped bedroom.
Though Mika was an official member of the Heartlet’s family, Lord Ranfel had placed her living quarter separately from the rest of the others － on the ground floor, in between the kitchen and the servants quarters.
Once, Mika had heard from the servants the reason why she was being kept there, was because Lord Ranfel did not want the ‘Knightly Spirit' to stain his castle's floors no more than he would drop on his knees in front of the servants in his castle.
Mika did not mind. Often, she would tell herself that this life — the life that was given to her by Lord Ranfel, though might be harsh as it may be, it was better being here than having to live in the streets without any guarantees of being safe and protected.
Her chamber was so small, it took a lot of space when they'd brought in a large-size wooden cupboard for her and put it at the corner of the room, against the wall. Other things that Mika had in her room were an old single bed and a small worn out coffee table. It wasn’t an ideal place to rest, but it was a room, nonetheless.
“Just in the matter of time," Mika whispered softly. The thought of having to leave Luyas alone frightened her the most. It ripped her heart apart by just thinking about it.
Nonetheless, Mika knew when the time comes, she had to go like it or not. Her little piece of Heaven would be gone then.
Mika buried her face deepened into the pillow. Her Knightly duty which usually involved patrolling the town’s surrounding areas was doubled when she had been informed by the Head Guard to run few errands for the Heartlet’s family such as buying the groceries items, picking up deliveries, sending out items, and so on, when a couple of loud and disturbing knocks on her door alerted her.
Instantly, Mika was up on her feet and heading toward the door. Halfway there, the door suddenly opened with a great force, revealed the messenger. He stood at the entrance, looked at her in disgust.
“Commandant Grants wishes to see you in his office immediately.” said the messenger, in monotone and uninterested voice.
"Thank you," Mika replied quickly while nodding her head politely.
The messenger gave a shrug. He left as fast as his feet could carry him, without closing the door. From a fair distance, Mika could hear him babbling about how he had wasted his time just to come here and delivered the message to the ‘Spirit’.
Mika sighed, shutting the door more loudly than she should. At least he didn’t use force or barged into her room, unlike last time…
Luna and her older brother who was a Captain of his own Brigade would do everything in their power to protect her whenever they were out together in public. Even so, they have their own limitations on how much protections could they gave her.
It didn’t take long for Mika who soon arrived in front of the Commandant’s Office. Staring at the golden plate with the name ‘Rogue Grants’ on the door, the young Spirit could not help but to have a bad feeling about what's to come. As if this would be the last time she sees that plate again…
Shaking her head to get rid of the thoughts, Mika took a deep breath and lightly knocked on the door.
“Enter,” commanded a deep male voice from the other side.
Mika entered, shutting the door behind her gently. Immediately, she was greeted with a brief smile on her Commandant’s stern face. Her eyes quickly recognised the figure seated in front of the desk, and she smiled.
“Ah, just the person I’ve been waiting for. Have a seat, Mika.”
Mika mutely nodded and be seated on the empty seat beside Luna, who grinned at her. Her eyes fell on an older lady with a honey blonde hair and serious gaze, standing firmly behind the Commandant. Hands cupped in front of her, Claire Boyce was the reserved and stoic Vice-Commandant of their brigade.
Unlike her superior who valued Mika as a valuable comrade of their Brigade, Claire viewed her as a pest and to a certain point, a threat to them all. Though, she was more subtle in her ways of treating the young Spirit. As the Second-in-Command, Claire constantly reminded herself to always be professional, watched over her words and actions as not to bring any negativity to reputation their Brigade, or embarrassing her Commanding Officer.
“Have you rested?” Grants asked, finally breaking the long silence.
“Good. Let’s cut the chase, shall we? The reason why I’d called you two here is because I have a very important assignment for you —your first official mission outside of Luyas. Now then..."
“Excuse me, Sir? If I may interrupt you for a moment?” Luna suddenly spoke up, lifting her left hand in the air. “Mika is still recovering her strength from her last errands just a while ago. While this meeting is on a short notice, is it really wise to let her be on this mission despite her lack of recovering?”
Mika’s eyes grew widened at the sudden mentioned of her name. Even Claire looked taken back at the question addressed to the Commandant.
Grants stared deeply at Luna’s innocent face. A deep frown began to form between his eyebrows as he spoke quietly, “To speak out without my consent and to tell me what to do… Are you doubting my judgement, Lady Luna? Were you not taught by anyone that it is especially rude to interrupt someone while they are speaking?”
Luna swallowed the gulp on her throat and lowered her head, apologetically. “My apologies, Sir…”
“To answer your question, yes. I am fully well aware of my subordinate current condition. Which is why this mission will begin first thing at dawn tomorrow. In fact, it will only take you both a couple of hours to complete it. Latest, half of the day.” Grants pulled out something from his drawer, a thick golden folded scroll and put down a golden thick scroll neatly on the table in front of them. He looked sharply at the two knights.
“Luna,” Grants pointed a finger at her. “I’m appointing you as the Captain for this mission. Listen carefully.Your official duty is to deliver this scroll to the Lord of Andania in a small town located at the North-East of Luyas, Andania. You’ve been there before, have you not?”
“Yes.” Luna quickly nodded.
“While you are familiar with the routes, Mika here isn’t. Therefore, I expect you to guide her so that she knows her way around there in case she needs to go there for errands and such.”
“Understood. Is that all, Sir?”
"As I was saying earlier, your official duty is to deliver this scroll to Lord Andania. While you are there, I want you to collect two hundred swords I’ve ordered and already paid from the Gold Blacksmith at the market there. All you have to do is to collect the swords and bring them back here. You two are to bring a horse waggon along tomorrow to help you carrying the swords. Understood?”
“Yes, sir!” The two Knights rose from their seats and saluted.
Grants nodded firmly. He lends against the chair and was about to dismiss them when all the sudden, he remembered something else.
“Before I forget, since this is obviously your first mission outside of Luyas, I’ve ordered two senior Knights to accompany you on the mission and to supervise both of you.” Grants looked at Luna, who looked hurt at the lack of trust. “Rest assure, Lady Luna. Having the senior knights to accompany you does not means that I do not have faith in your leadership. In order to make sure this mission goes as smoothly as possible, as well as for your own safety, your father has personally requested me for the senior Knights to accompany you.”
“My father did?” Luna blinked her eyes a few times. Lord Ranfel was cold most of the time and very aloof even toward his children. Hearing that he had personally asked for an added escorts to her team was something that surprised her greatly as it was truly an out of a character of him to do so.
“Yes.” Grants nodded, understandingly. “This is also a good time for you to learn more from the experienced Knights on how to lead your team more efficiently. Remember to heed their words for they have more experiences on the fields. Their advice may eventually be helpful for you in the future.”
The two Knights saluted again. Decided that would be all for now, Grants dismissed his subordinates.
“Get a good night sleep tonight. Miss Claire and I will be expecting you two first thing tomorrow at dawn in front of the Castle's gates for the last briefing. Dismissed.” Closing the door slowly, the two excitedly young Knights walked back to their own quarters, with a wide smile graced on their faces.
At long last, they finally officially became True Knights!
WHEN dawn arrived early next morning, the newly appointed Captain and her Brigade team were already waiting in front of Luyas’ main gates an hour early before the departure time. Luna was on cloud nine. She couldn’t even sleep a wink last night and could not believe her luck that for the first time in her whole life as a Knight, the Commandant had finally entrusted and given her the position of becoming a Captain!
A mind filled with today’s mission, Luna vowed to prove to everyone that she too could hold the responsibilities as a Captain. Though she felt rather anxious about the mission this morning, nonetheless, Luna was determined to make zero mistakes in the mission and would do whatever it takes to make it a complete success.
It didn’t take them long to wait for Grants and his Vice-Commandant to arrive at the meeting spot. They exchanged formal greetings before quickly jumping into the final briefing of the mission.
“Remember these words well, Captain Luna: never let your guards down no matter situations you are in and guide your team to safety. Work together as a team and keep each other safe and sound. I wish everyone all the very best of luck.”
“Yes, Sir!” Luna saluted.
“We shall expect you to return at twelve o’clock sharp, Captain Luna. Do not loiter around and be sure to come back home in time," informed Vice-Commander Claire strictly.
“Understood, Ma’am. I won’t let you down, Commander!” With a final salute to their superiors, Luna ordered her Brigade to move out.
Grants watched his assigned team departed from the Castle’s gates with a tight face that went noticed by his Second-in-Command.
“Commandant? Is something the matter?”
“...No.” Grants shook his head. “There’s nothing more that I could have done to stop them from leaving, despite having a real bad feeling about this..”
Claire looked alerted. "Would you like me to call them back? We could always send out a more experienced team to-"
"No." Grants firmly said. "This order is, after all, came from the higher up. A direct from Lord Ranfel himself. We must not interfere.”
Grants let out a long sigh. Looking up at the rising sun, he prayed silently for the departed team to be safe.
Chapter 2: Clashed Fates
SOMEWHERE in the Northern-West continent, slightly further up from the small neighbouring town of Luyas and Andania, deep in the woods surrounded by the thick rainforest, was the home of the highly respectful and feared Clan; the White Wolf.
Three tall and gigantic wolves statues covered in bronze stood proudly in front of the mansion, at the main entrance. Each of the three wolves represents the Clan's Codes: Honour, Power, and Discipline.
The White Wolf Clan has lived for centuries. Their ancestors made up of notable Royalty and Noblemen. Honoured by their codes, they lived in segregation from the public's eyes. Currently, the Clan's Successor and Head of the Clan was a young Lord in his early twenties…
A beautiful woman in her late twenties, sat on the polished bamboo floors of the spacious living room of the White Wolf Mansion, in a graceful manner. Enjoying the view of the beautiful garden, Suzumi Karou smiled satisfyingly at the tea she’d just finished brewed.
Her silky maroon hair braided neatly into a lovely bun, beautiful jade eyes, smooth and flawless pale skin that matched perfectly with her red full lips. She wore an Eastern traditional style clothing made from highly expensive silks; abstract shades of purple with pink floral patterns.
Sipping on her tea, Lady Suzumi sighed softly and said, "What a peaceful and lovely day,"
The lady had spent the whole day knitting a scarf for her troublesome little brother when she decided to take a short break. Taking another sip of the tea, all the sudden, she halted and gasped softly.
Her eyes suddenly grew widened. Quickly, Suzumi rushed the sliding door and opened before hastily making her way to the one place she knew exactly where to find that person at this hour to inform him the vision she just had.
A creative cursive writing on a wooden plate that spelt ‘Kitchen', hanging on the walls, greeted her as Suzumi finally reached her destination. The delicious smell of tonight's dinner already filled in her nostrils and made her stomach grumbled loudly. Sighed, she lifted the curtains and entered.
Her eyes travelled to the back of a tall male figure wearing a black sleeveless tight-fitting and mocked turtleneck shirt that revealed his lean muscular torso and arms. His long dark forest hair tied up in a messy ponytail. Plum coloured eyes looked down at the wooden chopping board as he expertly dicing the onions to little cubes on the kitchen's counter, before putting them into the already sizzling oiled pan.
The said man glanced up slowly at her. “Dinner won’t be done at least in an hour. You know that.”
“That’s not why I’m here,” Suzumi said again, calmly.
“Then, why? If you’re ordering food, forget it. I’m halfway done preparing the meals!”
Suzumi's left eye twitched irritatingly at the accusation. Placing both hands on her hips, she gave him a deathly glare. Meanwhile, Shinji refused to stay silence and resumed his work; dicing the mushrooms. He hated when people came and disturbed him while he was making dinner — since it was the only free time that he was able to unwind during due to his long and hectic schedules.
Shinji loved and cherished his big sister deeply, but damn, Suzumi could not even cook to save her own skin! He was not willing to be her guinea pig ever again. The last time when she had tried to make dinner, it had cost him a stomach ulcer.
Luckily the family doctor had been around at that time to treat him. Since then, he forbid her to step into the kitchen, much to her growing annoyance.
Sighed, Shinji put down the kitchen knife, lowered the fire on the hot pan, and finally, turned to face her with both arms crossed on his chest.
“What is it?”
“I’ve received a premonition a little while ago. I can feel her presence nearby — in the town of Andania.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” Shinji frowned deeply, scratching the back of his head. “Who’s she? One of your dance students?
Groaning frustratingly, Suzumi stomped forward and yanked her brother mercilessly by the collar. “Are you telling me that after all these years, you’ve forgotten all about her? I will mercilessly kill you if you answered that ‘yes’!”
“Ouch! What the hell, Suzumi!?” Shinji yelled. His eyes widened when the long suppressed memories suddenly jolted him. He looked down at the kitchen's floor before sighing deeply.
"Idiot. Of course, I haven't forgotten about her. You didn’t mention her name, so how the hell was I supposed to know who you were referring to.” Memories of the past lingered in his head. Eventually, he shook it off.
Shinji took the cigarette out of his mouth and blew out a cloud of dark smoke, all the while, his sister observed his body language with attentive eyes. Just as it had been hard on him five years ago, it was hard for him now. Finally, the moment they all had been anxiously waiting for, has come.
After a minute of endless silence, he turned off the stove and silently made his way out of the kitchen, when he halted and stopped by Suzumi.
“Be careful. We don’t know what will happens. I’m having a real bad feeling for what’s to come next. ”
ANDANIA, a small but relatively lively town surrounded by natural beauty, and filled with good-mannered people. The town's stone hilltop was significantly famous amongst tourists, as it has a terrific view overlooking the entire town.
“Isn’t this town just fascinating? I absolutely adore being here!” Luna exclaimed excitingly, the moment they arrived at the town.
"It sure is, Captain," Mika replied with a bright smile. She could barely contain the excitement that built up within her but had to remind herself the needs to be professional. After all, they were in the middle of an important mission.
Luna looked to Mika who stood on her right side when she suddenly gasped in sheer excitement. "That's right, Mika. This is your first time visiting an actual town, isn't it?"
“That’s true,” Mika nodded. This is my first time ever to step a foot outside of Luyas. Though, I am a bit curious to know why Lord Ranfel allowed me to come along with you. It is unusual for him to do so...”
Luna shrugged. "Father is an unpredictable man. Maybe he thought it is high time for you to expand your horizon of the world." Unexpectedly, an idea came to her mind that caused her to stop and grinned wickedly. “Hey, I have an idea! What say you if, after we’ve done delivering the scroll to Lord Andania and collected the swords from the blacksmith, we’ll take a stroll around the town? Won’t that be fun?”
Expected something like this to happened, Mika shook her head gently. "Didn't Miss Claire had specifically told us to return to Luyas immediately? She mentioned not to loiter—"
"Oh c'mon, Mika! We hardly go outside of Luyas to enjoy ourselves. So why not take this opportunity to enjoy it? Besides, this will do you good too for socialising. Please? It will be worthwhile! I promise we'll be in Luyas on time! Please?" Luna begged, with her big brown eyes.
Still not convinced it was a good idea to loiter, but at the same time, did not want to upset her Captain, Mika reluctantly nodded.
“I suppose since we’re already here, we might as well check on how are the Knights stationed here doing. It’s not loitering if you’re checking on them, right?”
“Right! Exactly.” Luna nodded rapidly.
Sighed, Mika firmly said, “But, it will only be for a short while, okay? We still have a long journey back if we want to make home by noon.” Luna put her arms around her friend before she pulled her into a half-hug.
“Oh, thank you, Mika! You’re the best! Let’s go and tell the others.”
Many Knight has claimed never to their whole lives serving as the Knights of Luyas, had they seen their respectful, level-headed, and ‘demonic' Commandant looked anything else but just as he often described. Grants Rogue was the no-nonsense type of man who often kept himself cool, calm, and collected even when in the most difficult and tough situations.
Grants was a true hard-core soldier at heart, who at times, shown kindness and mercy to others. A firm believer in discipline, he was extremely strict with his subordinates, hence, earned him the title of a ‘Demon’.
Today, when a knight dropped by his office simply to just say ‘hello’, he was surprised to find two messy stacks of paperwork on his table. Some of it were scattered all over the floor.
Needless to say, the Commandant’s office in a terrible state.
What caught the young Knight’s surprise the most was the Commandant had one hand placed on his face, and the other was holding a half-empty bottle of Rum! For as long as he could remember, Grants Rogue barely touched any alcoholic drinks with an except on special occasions, let alone caught red-handedly with one in broad daylight!
Grants had once shared his view on alcohol amongst his peers and subordinates, stating, "a man who does not know how to control his drink, is a man who has no respect for himself". Obviously, something terrible has happened that drove the usually level-headed man to this horrible state.
"C-Commander? Are you not feeling well, Sir?" The young Knight asked very carefully. Determined to find out what the root of the problem that caused his beloved Commandant to be in great distress, he rushed to find the one person who would know about the Commandant's bizarre behaviour, when he met with a pair of narrowed angry eyes.
Claire Boyce kept a straight face as she glared the knight that was in her superior’s office.
"For the last time, just as I have said to the people before you and also, to those people living outside of my door," her voice increased as she pointed a finger directly at the flinched Knights lining outside of the office. "The Commandant has requested not to be disturbed. Neither do I, as a matter of fact!" Claire finally snapped. Her patience grew thinner with each second passed that she had to deal with these rascals.
“But Madam Boyce, I am very concerned about his health!”
"So as the rest. Now, while the Commandant and I appreciate everyone have taken a great interest in his well being, I would suggest for you all to be wise and kindly leave him alone at the moment. As for the rest of you lining outside, kindly return to your posts now!"
The young Knight reluctantly dispatched, pouting and groaning at being kicked out from the office, as well as the long line of Knights waiting outside of the office. Finally leaving the Second-In-Command alone with her thoughts at last.
Claire laid back on her seat, massaging her throbbing forehead. She took a deep breath, counted one till ten in her head and then exhaled. Today was, by far, the worse day of her life.
Firstly, her superior had been in a foul mood all morning. He had been hissing and snapping at every little mistake made by either the Knights or her, which was kind of a surprise to everyone because though he may be a strict and no-nonsense man, Grants was, without a doubt, known for being extremely patients with others.
It caught her off guard when she'd knocked on his door to get his signature for a few paperwork, only to find the respectful Commandant was in an alcoholic state. When she had asked just what had caused him to reduce to this state, Grants replied stating he simply had enough stress to handle after all the efforts of every type of meditations had left him more miserable.
Initially, Grants had started drinking by the cup, which by Claire’s knowledge, not enough to make him drunk. However, after his fifth rounds, her Commandant had decided to ‘screw it all’ and took a full gulp straight from the bottle.
Panicked, Claire had immediately shut the Commandant’s office door and locked it. She had made a few attempts to try and persuade him to stop gulping the Rum. Despite her efforts of trying to take the Rum away from his grasp, it had failed miserably, and thus, she was left to leave the Commandant alone.
Claire could have sworn she felt veins popping on her head. Never been the one who uses her position as the Vice-Commandant in any kind of ways, let alone threatening someone, Claire had done exactly that to the poor lad to keep this issue just between them and not for it to reach to Lord Ranfel's ears, before sending him off.
The knight had promised, fearing for his life and both her and the Commandant's wrath should this news reached to Lord Ranfel's ears. However, that certainly didn't stop the idiot to tell the others about their beloved Commandant's unusual state.
Breathing in deeply, Claire sighed tiredly. She repeated the simple exercise for a few times before decided it was time to finish those paperwork that were piling up her small desk.
Exactly an hour and a half later, Claire gave a loud satisfying sigh at her finished job. Stacking the papers neatly, she looked out at the scenery window with one hand rested under her chin.
“Perhaps a little tea and light snacks should make him sober, at the very least.” Claire pondered loudly. Nodded, she stood up from her chair and began making preparing for the tea and snacks for her Commanding Officer.
Grants Rogue who was sitting on the chair had been holding the back of his head faced down on the ground for the past couple of hours. He had heard what was the commotion all about, yet, he found himself too drunk not to give a damn about it at the slightest.
Eventually, the noise settled down and he sobered up a bit. Grants sat with his back straight on his seat. Still feeling light-headed he stared at the clock hanging on the wall, while his fingers impatiently tapping on the desk.
The clock stroke at half past eleven in the morning, exactly thirty minutes before noon approached and Grants found himself already losing his cool. Clenching his teeth, Grants landed his fists hard on the table, ignoring the falling piles of papers on the ground.
"Damn it! What could have possibly taken them so long to get their arses back here before noon?! It's not even that far! I'd even assigned two of my most trusted knights to accompany and help them loading the swords. So what else is taking them so long to get back-"
As if realisation finally hit him, Grant gasped aloud.
“Shit!” Running his fingers through his hair frustratingly.
Of course. Of course, his newly-selected Captain of the assigned team just had to take this opportunity to go and explore the town! After all, when else could they have the chance to do so when the mere chances of them stepping foot outside of the Luyas’ Gates was close to zero. He should have known or predicted it sooner.
"Damn it, Luna!" Grants pitched the bridge between his eyes. "Calm down, man. Mika's with her. She won't let her get distracted on a mission. They should be heading their way home as right now."
Grants was never the one to compare or favoured over any of his subordinates in his brigades, he found the young Spirit simply to be more trustworthy and level-headed in handling things more so than the Luyas Heiress.
Pacing in a circle like a hen, Grants stopped when someone knocked softly on the door.
“Enter.” The door opened smoothly, revealed his Vice-Commandant carrying a tray contained two small cups of herbal tea and some biscuits.
“Are they back?”
"No signs of them returning home yet." Claire carefully puts down the tray on his desk. "Though, do you mind if I ask a question, Commandant?"
“What?” He took the offered hot tea and sipped it.
“Normally, you put a lot of trust and faith on the team that you’ve assigned for regardless on any missions available. Nevertheless, you have been quite anxious and dare I say — nervous — all morning ever since Captain Luna’s team left for a very simple mission in Andania. Why is that, Sir?”
Grants massaged his throbbing forehead. Wordlessly, he walked toward the desk. His grip on the small teacup was so tight, Claire worried he might break the cup in halves if he wasn't careful enough.
Grants sighed deeply. “No matter how much I’d wanted to object the mission to be handed over to Luna, this came straight from Lord Ranfel himself. He wanted his daughter to be promoted to a Captain even when she’s not ready to become one yet!”
“Regardless, that’s not what’s making you this anxious, isn’t it?”
Grants shook his head. Reaching out his hand for something inside his desk drawer, he handed her a neatly folded letter with a big ‘IMPORTANT’ letter written at the front. Claire put down her cup and accepted the letter. She read it in silence.
While his Vice-Commander was reading the report, Grants pulled yet another drawer and slammed two-pieces of report statements on the table.
Claire quickly reached out both reports with trembling hands. She read them thoroughly. Claire sat down with a loud thump on the offered chair in front of the desk. Hands covered her face, with spaces in between her fingers, she looked at the Commandant expecting for an explanation.
"Two days ago, these reports came in from the knights of Eden who were patrolling the area near the Northern Borders. They've received words about a large group of unknown intruders who had mysteriously emerged into the Northern lands. Lord Eden, the Lord who governed those lands, has ordered his forces to stand by and guard the area within their perimeters. He has spread the words and warned of the intruders to other Kingdoms. Should any of those intruders managed to slip away from his defence team, Lord Eden wants all Kingdoms to be aware of the situation at hands and to take any necessary actions. As Andania is located at the North-East, the possibility that the intruders might slip into the town is dangerously high.”
Grants cleared his throat. “The scroll that I’d asked the Assigned Team to deliver, was actually a warning letter for Lord Andania stating that should an attack on Andania take place, two thousand swords have already been made and prepared for the knights that were assigned to protect the town. ”
Claire stood up abruptly. She looked at the clock, now ten minutes closer to noon, and gasped.
“Commandant, we have to do something! What if Captain Luna’s team get caught in the middle of the battle? Or even worse, what if-”
“Calm down, Vice-Commandant.” Grants put down the cup on the table. “The worse has yet to come. It will be wise for the two of us not to over think about it.”
Honey-brown eyes looked at him, pleading him to do something. Grants groaned and sighed deeply. Heading to the exit, Grants said, "Prepare to mean Immediate Rescue Team for me at once."
ANDANIA’S hilltops, a famous tourist spot in all Fulaina due to its strategic location between the City of Eden on the North, and the Kingdom of Luyas on the East. One could easily overlook the two of Fulaina's most famous skyscrapers: the Kingdom of Luyas's the Bell Tower behind the castle and the tall futuristic buildings of the City of Eden.
Two people sat at the Andania’s hilltop, enjoying themselves while being surrounded by the various and the beautiful blossomed flowers on the field. After they have successfully delivered the scroll to the Lord of Andania, and collected the two thousand swords prior requested by their Commandant, the Assigned Team decided to take a little rest on one of the hilltops before making their journey back home.
“This is such a breathtaking view!” Mika inhaled as much of the fresh air as she could, before exhaling it.
“See? Told you it’d be worth it.” Luna smiled proudly. “I remember coming here when I was a little girl. I thought that maybe you would like to come here too, Mika.”
“That’s very considered of you, Luna. Thank you.” Mika smiled gratefully at her friend, who smiled back.
While the two of them enjoying the beautiful view, Luna decided to ask Mika something.
"Say, Mika? I've been thinking..." Luna frowned. She kept plucking at the grass on the ground, avoiding any eye contacts with her.
Curious at her friend’s odd behaviour, Mika smiled encouragingly.
“You know you can ask me anything, Luna. Go ahead. What is it that you want to know?”
Biting her lower lips, Luna sighed. “It must be extremely hard for you, isn’t it? Not being able to remember your past except for the last seven years since you’d came and live here with us. It’s truly a frightful thing. I don’t know how you could live with it. If it was me, I’ll go mad!”
"Not really," Mika said, after a long pause. Staring at the clouds, she continued. "What's done is done. In fact, I've come to accept that maybe it is better for me not remember any of them at all."
“But are you not at least a bit curious to know about your family? Or why you were the only one Spirit being left in this world?”
Mika turned at her and smiled tiredly. "Even if I do want to remember them, Luna, I couldn't. My past is a complete blank to me. Not knowing what had happened in the past is a frightful thing. But then again, since I cannot remember the past, I could at least, be grateful to be able to remember the present, and hopefully, the future. I'm making the best with what I have. Isn't that what's more important?"
Luna looked down at her hands that were on her laps. Biting her lips, her nose was growing red, and her eyes were moist and glittering. "I'm sorry!" Luna wiped the first tear rolled down on her cheeks. "I can't believe how insensitive I was asking you such questions!"
Putting one hand on her friend’s shoulder, Mika smiled.
"Listen, Luna. I am ultimately grateful to your family for letting me be part of the Heartlet's family. I have so many fond memories here. Like, remember when we were young, the three of us tried to sneak out of the castle? Guy was the one who got caught by the Knights while the two of us managed to escape."
Mika chuckled fondly. "He was screaming desperately, ‘Help me, you traitors!' while being dragged away by the knights. I remember it very well he'd refused to talk to us for the next two weeks, even after we'd countlessly apologised to him!"
Luna giggled. "Brother had it bad. He got scolded by Father that very night for setting out a bad example to us. Meanwhile, the two of us were caught soon after and were taken to the Commandant's office. He wasn't happy to hear about it, though. The punishment of having to clean all of the restrooms was horrible! I never wanted to do anything like that ever again."
The two young women laughed to their heart's content at the fond memories. Their enjoyment was soon cut too short when one of the senior knights approached them.
“Captain Luna, we really should be heading to Luyas now. It is almost noon.”
Luna sighed but nodded. Even though she was selected as the Captain of the mission, the Commandant trusted the knights more so than he would trust her. Hence, she had to listen to their orders instead.
So much for leadership!
The Luyas knights ventured their journey back home with little difficulties, and in silence. Occasionally, they would ask questions and exchanging opinions with the other Knights regarding of battle plans and strategies.
Halfway to Luyas with the sun now set above them, they passed by the greenery hills in silence, when Luna abruptly halted. To her left, were broken pieces of gates that led to another side of the forest; the ‘Forbidden Forest'.
Noticed that her Captain had stopped walking, Mika paused, as well as the other two Knights with the horse waggon.
“Captain Luna? Something wrong?” When no response came from the other girl, Mika stepped closer and nudged Luna on the shoulder. “Hey, what’s wrong?”
Ignoring Mika's and the other Knights questioning looks, the young Captain carefully approached to the broken gates. Once there, she went on one knee and hid amongst of the bushes. Mika silently followed her.
Luna’s eyes grew widened at the sight of a large group wearing a red robe with a big unfamiliar ancient crest printed at the back of each robe. Since the robe covered most of their faces with the exception of the hands and legs, she could not get a better view on these mysterious intruders without getting herself noticed by them.
Nevertheless, Luna was quite certain that no one was allowed to enter there. While the young heiress was too focused on the mysterious group, she was oblivious to notice her Spirit friend was letting out a few soft hissing gasps.
Mika frowned deeply at the sight of the mysterious group. With one hand on her forehead, she hissed silently as her pulse beat quickly. Something about them suddenly made her head throbbed painfully.
Mika was glad to know her captain was unaware of her condition. Knowing her dear friend, she would react to the situation loudly and might blow their covers. Taking a few deep breath, Mika forced herself to breathe in deeply and counted from one to ten in her head.
Meanwhile, decided the best thing to deal with the situation on hand was to return home quickly and report it to her father as soon as possible, Luna nodded firmly at her decision, before turning her head to speak with her comrade, when she noticed the Spirit girl was frowning deeply, pinching the bridge of her eyes.
“Hey, are you okay? What’s wrong?” Luna whispered softly.
Mika gave a quick shook of her head. “N-Nothing. Just a slight headache. Probably the weather.”
Concerns were all over Luna's face. However, after being reassured by Mika that she was okay, Luna she decided to not question her further and simply nodded.
“We should hurriedly return home. I need to report about this to father immediately.”
Mika nodded, before following her Captain to where the senior Knights who were waiting impatiently for them.
“My apologies for the long wait, gentlemen.”
“What happened?” Asked Lee, the older of the two veteran knights.
“While we were walking, I’d thought I saw movements at the Forbidden Forest, so I went to check it out. There were people — intruders — gathered in the Forest, just as we speak!” Her explanation earned a sharp gasp from the Knights.
Luna continued. "They do not look harmful enough, but no doubt that they are highly suspicious people. It would be in our best interest to rush back to Luyas and report this to Father as soon as possible."
"Understood. In the meantime, I will notify the Knights in Andania and ask them to keep watchful eyes on them, and to take them out, should they feel necessary. No one is allowed to be in the Enchanted Forest in the first place."
The younger veteran knight nodded. Quickly, he wrote down the message onto a piece of paper, and then took out a cage pigeon carrier from the waggon, and set it out to fly to Andania.
Once everything was set to go, they made a hasty journey back to Luyas, when all the sudden, the ground started to shake tremendously. Before they had the time to react, a deafening explosive echoed loudly.
It came from the Forbidden Forest. The sound, followed by thick black smoke quickly filled in the forest.
“What the hell was that?” Luna shouted. Her eardrums still ringing due to the loud explosion. Her eyes stung from the smoke and tears were rolling on her cheeks.
Another blast of explosion occurred. This time, the sound was getting nearer to where they were. Before any of them could escape, another explosion occurred.
This time, it hit them.
THICK black smokes covered the whole of the Forbidden Forest. After minutes passed, the smokes still not cleared yet, it was visible enough to see. When Luna opened her eyes after she had regained from unconsciousness, the first thing she saw and felt was thick charcoal smoke and the stung in her eyes.
Flapping her hands rapidly in the air, with her lungs inflamed, she coughed heavily while letting hot tears running down her cheeks. She felt pain all over her body, and something dripping from her head.
Is it blood? Water? Or mixed of both?
Not wanting to deal with the problem at the moment, Luna gingerly got up on her feet. Her two legs were trembling from gotten hit by the blast. The strong shock wave had separated her from the rest of her comrades. They all had been thrown forward into different directions.
Luna had her own body being slammed hard against a tree. To make it even worse, her head got hit on the hard root of the said tree as she fell down the ground. The last thing she heard before she'd fell into unconsciousness was a cold, hair-rising roared that echoed throughout in the forest.
Luna winched painfully as she got up to her feet. She held on her sprained left ankle, all the while hissing and cursing at the pain. Slowly and carefully as she could be, Luna walked toward to the lessened smoking area with a limping ankle. All the while trying to relocate her missing comrades.
Cold fears slowly crept behind her like a phantom as she let her mind wandered at what was happening. Nevertheless, the young heiress tried her best to remain calm and find the rest of her missing comrades.
"Mika! Everyone! Where are you? Mi-" Luna stopped abruptly and let out a coughing fit from her dried throat. She didn't know how long she had been out of conscious.
As she got more to a clearer surface, Luna let out a loud shocking gasp and nearly fell back on her back at the sight of her new found surroundings. The green hilltops that she and Mika had just visited a while back, now burnt to crisp and destroyed.
What’s left of it was a burnt landscape.
Luna forced herself to take a couple steps forward to the hilltops despite the hollowed and dreadful feeling in the pit of her stomach. Her eyes wandered wildly.
No sight of life form was found anywhere.
Tears running down her cheeks like falling rain. Her mind was in deep confusion and didn’t seem to comprehend what was happening. Her body refused to stop trembling.
“Captain Luna! Captain, are you alright?” Voices from the distances calling out her name.
Heavy footsteps getting closer to her. Before long, three familiar faces rushed by her side.
No matter how many times they all called out her name, Luna remained unresponsive. Her whole world has turned to a complete blank. Luna tuned out everything except for the sound of her own rapid heartbeat that was getting faster each second when...
A palm on Luna’s left cheek, hence, brought her back to reality. Luna blinked her eyes for a couple of times before she felt her left cheek stung. Lee firmly grabbed both her shoulders and forced her to look him in the eyes.
“My apologies for hitting you, Milady. However, we do no have time to be in panic. The people of Andania need our help. Please take a long deep breath and try to pull yourself together.”
He took his hands off her shoulders and walked to the horse cargo where the other two were standing.
“We’ll have to turn back. I’ll send words to Luyas and let them know about our given situation. As for these swords, we might need to use them after all,” said Lee again. “What are your orders, Captain Luna?”
Meanwhile, Luna focused all of her attentions on Mika, who looked deeply concerned at her.
“Are you alright, Lady Luna? Can you stand?” Mika was about to place one hand on her shoulder when Luna abruptly stood up. Eyes flared with anger and deep hatred, she glared at the Spirit knight kneeling on one knee beside her.
Luna shoved the Spirit girl away while screaming, “Get away from me!”
Meanwhile, Mika was in shocked after being shoved away by her best friend. Recovered quickly, she remained calm and tried once again to reach out to her dear friend.
“Luna, it’s okay. Everything is going to be all right. I promise you.”
Luna stared at the young Spirit with an unreadable expression. She watched intently as her friend carefully reached out to hold her arm again before she slapped the hand away.
Taking a deep breath, Luna spoke in trembled voice.
“T-This is your fault. This is your entire damn fault, Mika! Y-you brought them here — those Spirits!"
"What?" Lee shrieked madly. "What nonsense are you spatting about at the time like this, Milady! The Spirits?"
“I’d overheard father talked to someone in his office one night, years ago. He’d said after spending years and funds on scholars and researchers about her true identity, there might be a chance that Mika belonged to a Noble Spirit family! If, it is proven to be true, who do you think is responsible for all of this, huh? For all you know, the reason why the Spirits are here is because of the horrible and mean things you people have done to her!”
“That’s preposterous!” Karl, the younger veteran knight protested. “What in Devil’s name had made you came out with that kind of assumption, Lady Luna!”
Luna clenched her fist and gritted her teeth. “Then how do you explain what the hell is going on here?”
"Lady Luna," Lee gritted his teeth. "I may not know what is happening at the moment. But what I do know is that we have other urgent things that desperately need our attention. Such as the condition of the town Andania. Now, I've come to realise and understand that you are experiencing emotions at the moment, but we desperately need you to get a hold of yourself! You're still the Captain of this mission regardless of how unfit you've become to be! As such, I'd expect you to-"
“Oh, sod off, old man!”
There was a loud gasping sound came from the rest.
“Miss Luna!” Lee shrieked angrily. “I will not let you speak rudely to me that way!”
Mika watched the scene with her mouth slightly opened. Despite knowing how bold and sharp-tongued Luna could be at times, she often holds her tongue especially when it comes to the higher ranked Knights and the elders.
Luna gritted her teeth and looked challengingly at the eldest Knight. Her face was mixed with emotions she could hardly contain any longer.
“Look around you! What makes you think we have the slightest chance of winning against whatever it is that’s causing this havoc? We’d nearly died from the explosions, for Goodness sake! What makes you think I would be stupidly enough to risk my life fighting a battle I knew damn well I can’t win!”
"Lady Luna," Karl spoke gently. "Please. You are scared and traumatised from what just happened. We all are. It's quite normal to feel scared at the time like this — especially when the enemy is the Spirits, just as you'd claimed them to be. Nevertheless, we all have taken our oaths as Knights of Luyas to protect the Kingdom and to defend the weak. Right now, Andania needs us. Our only best chance of surviving this battle is to stay together and help each other out. You are our Captain, and we will always be there by your side, watching over you back and ourselves as well. So please, Milady, let us fight along with the others in defending Andania."
At Karl's kind and encouraging words, Mika desperately hoped for Luna to clear her thoughts and gathered enough courage to fight. She truly hoped the hurtful words which Luna had screamed earlier was only due to the emotional stress, and that she didn’t mean any of it...
"Enough! I'm getting sick and tired of hearing this ‘Knightly talks! I didn't join the Knights with a Noble heart like the rest of you! I joined the Knights because of my father."
“Prey tell us what exactly do you mean by that, Lady Luna?” Lee was obviously having a hard time trying to control his rage.
Luna took a deep breath. “I am my father’s daughter. That is the absolute truth. As such, it is highly expected that I’d become a Knight and serving the Kingdom just like my brother. But no matter how hard I’ve tried or strive to his expectation, Father never pays attention to me! What’s the point of me return to Andania and risking my life, defending it against the Spirits? If it wasn’t for Father, I would have run away from home long time ago! So yeah, call me a coward, selfish, a spoiled princess! I couldn't care less anymore!"
Everyone was in shocked beyond words by Luna’s unexpected confessions. Not even the Senior Knights could make a comeback. They only looked at her in silence, with sympathetic eyes.
Mika lowered her gaze to the ground. Part of her felt betrayed by Luna’s confession, and the other part was berating herself for not realising what her friend was going through sooner. How could she call herself a friend －a sister, when she wasn't aware of all that was happening to Luna?
A faint sobbing sound caught her attention. Looking up, Mika saw her Captain wiped her tears away furiously, before turning her back at them. Taking a deep breath, Luna spoke in much quieter voice.
“As far as I’m concerned, we’ve completed our mission. Let the other knights help to defend the town." Not waiting for her comrades, Luna began to walk slowly and limply toward Luyas.
Ignoring the loud terrifying sound came from the Spirits that echoed her surroundings and the empty footsteps behind her, Luna kept on marching forward, not caring if her comrades followed her or not.
Even if she had chosen to head back and defend the town, it’s impossible with her current conditions. She would die for sure. Surely, they would understand that… Surely, the Commandant would understand that to fight a losing battle is a foolish thing to do.
Deep down, Luna knew she was simply trying to justify her action. It was her fault, to begin with. She knew she shouldn't have loitered around right after they’d successfully delivered the scroll and retrieved the swords. She should have just head back home. Mika had warned her, did she not?
Once again, tears began to roll down her cheeks as she wept in silence. Furiously, Luna wiped them away and quickened her paces, when she heard footsteps running the opposite side － heading toward the town of Andania.
Curiosity got the best of her, Luna slowly turned her head and gave a short gasp at the figure running on the opposite side of the forest.
Unwilling to just stand there and watched helplessly as the entire town was being terminated by the enemies, Mika made up her mind and gripped on the hilt of her sword tightly.
Glancing at her Captain’s back with disappointment in her eyes, she rushed back to the town of Andania, not looking back.
Two fates clashed.
One walked towards the path of safety behind the bars, while the other walked towards the path of uncertain future...