To The Red Line

 

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Prologue: The Birth of the Twins

THE Universe contained two realms: The Human Realm, Fulaina, and the Spirit Realm.

The leaders of the Five Kingdoms in Fulaina and the Spirit Royal Family have forged a peace treaty known as the ‘Humanity-Spirit Treaty’. For centuries, these realms have lived in co-existence in peace and harmony. 

 

THUD. THUD. THUD.

Heavy footsteps stormed harshly on the marbled floors of the empty hallways. A young Spirit King in golden armour with the Spirit family’s crest printed on his chest ran speedily across the empty corridors. He listened to the sound of his heart beating loudly against his chest. Long maroon hair that was tied in a high ponytail swung swiftly as he hurried to reach his destination before finally, he stopped at the dark coral painted door.

The Master bedroom.

With trembled hands, the Spirit King slowly reached out to the doorknob and held onto it for a moment. Taking a long deep breath, he exhaled and slowly turned the doorknob. Dark emerald eyes caught instantly the attention of the two figures standing at the centre of the private chamber. Both whom the King trusted with his whole being, gazed back at him. 

Before the Spirit King could utter a word, one of them, a tall and bulky knight with the same Phoenix-printed crest on his chest, approached him. The knight raised his hand onto the latter’s shoulders in a firm grip.

“I’m sorry, Ferid. We… Couldn’t save her.”

King Ferid fell on his knees. Head lowered and hands covered his hands, he wept in grief for losing the love of his life: his beautiful Reliana.

The King continued to weep like a lost child when a gentle hand reached out and gently touched his shoulder. Ferid slowly looked up and met with a beautiful, slender young woman clad in semi-full white silk attire that covered most of her figure. The woman held a sad gaze.

“Though Her Royal Highness the Queen may have gone to the Heavens, we mustn’t forget the gifts she’d left us behind, Your Majesty,” The young woman spoke gently, tilting her head at a small cradle behind her.

Ferid instantly froze.

“Your Majesty,” the male Knight cleared his throat. With a firm pat on the King’s back, the knight smiled encouragingly.

“Go ahead.”

Ferid swallowed hard and nervously approached to the cradle. His expression slowly changed from grief having to lose his beloved Queen, to a sad smile. His heart filled with warmness as his eyes laid at the sight of an infant wrapped comfortably in a pink bundle, sleeping soundly.

Gently, the Spirit King lifted the fragile newborn and carefully held her in his arms. 

“May I present to you, The Crown Princess and future Queen of this kingdom.” 

“My daughter,” Ferid whispered softly, tears rolling down his cheeks. A smile broke on the grief-stricken King’s lips as he kissed his newborn on the forehead.

“There’s more to it, Your Majesty,” The knight behind him cleared his throat. In his arms, he held another infant wrapped in a blue blanket.

Ferid's eyes widened, gasping softly.

“A double blessing, Sire. Even the Oracle did not predict this forthcoming.” 

Golden eyes gazed down at the infant in his arms, who woke up and began to cry furiously. The knight softly cooed the infant in his arms, before placing him inside the cradle, beside his twin.

“What shall you do with the little one?” The knight asked cautiously.

Ferid frowned deeply.

Fraternal twins, in the Spirit traditional custom, is a rare blessing. Parents who were being blessed with fraternal twins would often in dilemma in choosing those two. At times, the family would cast away from society due to the Spirits’ traditional belief that females born would bring endless prosperities and great fortunes while males born are cursed and would bring great misfortunate to the family. 

The Spirit Royal Family is no exception. It was rare enough within the Royal Spirit family to have a pair of twins, let alone, fraternal twins. The birth of a Princess would be celebrated in a grand ceremony filled with joy from the people throughout the entire realm, whereas male infants would often be burned alive or even killed. Those who did survive the misfortunes would never dream to inherited the Throne and be forced to send away for an arranged political marriage.

Thick empty silence between them grew as time passed by. The two subordinates held to their breath while waiting anxiously for the King’s response. The male knight refused to barge from his spot nearby the young Prince who was sleeping soundly. He’d prepared to lay his life and even went as far as raising his own sword at the man whom he’d sworn to protect, should the latter choose to get rid of the infant.

Ferid turned his gaze upon the two infants in the cradle. Deep Emerald eyes stared intensively at their peaceful sleeping faces. A broad smile broke his lips.

“We’ll keep them both,” Ferid reached out one hand and played with the Prince’s small and fragile fingers. “No child of mine is cursed. This child is the product of love that the late Queen and I have conceived. This Prince shall rise and helps to rule the kingdom with the future Queen. Both of them shall keep the nation 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 proceed by asking. 

“What will you name them, Your Majesty?”

“I shall name them... Makai and Mika. ‘Makai’ means ‘Protector’ while ‘Mika’ means ‘Future’ in our mother-tongue, Ancient Aspaniac. These two shall be the hopes and protectors of our future.”

Nodded at the King’s declaration, the two subordinates saluted at the King and the newly born twins.

 

**********

 

SOON, news of the Queen and the birth of the fraternal twins circulated around the Kingdom. Many were deeply saddened by the late Queen's passing. In their grief, however, the Spirits were pleased to receive the happy news of the birth of the future Queen. When it was announced that the future Queen has in fact, a twin brother, it caused a great commotion. Many feared the catastrophe that would befall them should the young Prince continued to live. Hence, they demanded the young Prince to be executed.

Meanwhile, when news of the fraternal born twins reached the ears of the upperclassmen and the great leaders of Fulaina, most of them accepted the twins with joy while others cursed them out of fear. Fearing for the safety of his children, King Ferid unwillingly had ordered the twins to stay away from the public’s eyes. He had arranged to build a small private Manor, within the castle.

Years when by and though the twins were confined most of the time in the manor, they were inseparable. They lived happily while keeping each other’s company. The only regular visitors they’d often received over were the King and his Royal Advisor and personal bodyguard, whom they had affectionately referred to as ‘Uncle Leo’. 

Never once were they allowed to step outside of the manor’s compound, except for a special occasion such as birthdays.

It wasn’t until the twins’ seventh birthday when things had changed dramatically. On that same year, a big scale war known as the ‘Great War’, broke out between the two realms. Blinded by selfishness and greed, the humans had sabotaged and kidnapped the Spirit Crown Princess. 

The battlefield that had taken place later known as the ‘Red Line’— a passage between Fulaina and the Spirit’s World.

The long and endless battles lasted for months — close to a full season before an unknown force landed in the middle of the battlefield. It caught both sides off-guarded with an unstoppable and powerful blast, hence, ended the Great War.

Miraculously, mankind survived in the blast. The Spirit Army, however, had vanished completely without any traces. Nobody knew what’d happened to the Spirits that fateful day.  

A magical powerful seal had been placed on a portal that connected the Spirit Realm and Fulaina to keep the two races apart from colliding with each other ever again, by a man known as the Master Oracle Khulai.

Time went by, men slowly picked up themselves and rebuilt their lives after the Great War. Very few people knew about the existence of the Spirits and the friendly political relations they once had with the World Leaders of Fulaina. Those who had lived throughout the war had sworn not to ever forgive nor forget what the Spirits had done to their homes and families. They’d spread horror stories about the Spirit to the young generations, feeding theirs loathes and hatred toward the Spirits.

The existence of the Spirits and how it had mysteriously disappeared during the Great War, were soon erased and forgotten completely by mankind…

Until now...

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Chapter One: The World of Fulaina

THE Kingdom of Luyas, located at the East of Fulaina, spanning an entire of the Eastern continent. The kingdom is governed by an absolute monarchy military, currently ruled by Lord Ranfel Heartlets the XII. Within these surrounding concrete walls, lies a small town and an Academy built by the Heartlets family's great ancestors, where the most finest Knights were bred and trained. Upon graduation, the knights were later, assigned to respective brigades based on their level of achievements.

 

In a small town of Luyas, amidst the busy crowd, a loud commotion could be heard in the centre of the town.

“You cursed Spirit! You should just rot in hell!” shouted an elderly noble man loudly while pointing the edge of his cane at a red-haired young woman dotted in a chain mail armour. “You don’t belong here! Nobody wants you here!”

The nearby pedestrians stopped at what they were doing and looked at the scene. With wrinkled fingers, the elderly man pointed at the young woman again.

“You should be grateful we weren’t allowed to boil you alive when you first stepped to this land. What was Lord Ranfel thinking? Letting a Spirit to be promoted into a knight!” He spat at the ground at the young woman’s feet before walking away, mumbling about how soft the Lord has gotten.

At a fair distance, two noblewoman scowled and commented loudly. “Perhaps the Lord is secretly keeping her as his pet for his own satisfying pleasure. How promiscuous!”

In the midst of everything that just happened, the young woman let out a soft sigh. Moving forward, Mika started walking toward her destination. It was not the first time she had been publicly insulted and definitely wouldn’t be the last of them. 

Mika remembered the first time she was publicly insulted - at the age of thirteen by a drunken man who had blamed her for his entire family's death during the Great War. When words fell to her deaf ears, the man, out of rage, tried to physically assault her in broad daylight. 

Not one knights who were on duty nearby bothered to lift a finger to stop the incident. Fortunately, Mika managed to successfully escaped to the castle where she immediately reported the incident to the Captain of her brigade. 

The incident and Mika's report quickly reached the Authorities' ears. After a heavy persuasion from the Commandant-in-Chief for Lord Ranfel to instate a new law to the town that no physical harms should ever come to her, only then, the latter  compiled. Since then, the verbal abuses were only allowed to Mika, despite the increased aggression of words.  

 

Emerald eyes gazed at the busy streets. In truth, Mika could not completely blame them for resenting her; the ugly and bitter conflicts of the Great War that happened a decade ago, resulted in many casualties and the loss of their loved ones. Only a few have truly make peace with the past and carried on with their life as much as they possible could. As time went by, they came to even tolerate her presence and gradually treated her kindly.

At a young age, Mika was known as the ‘Lost Child’, due to the fact that she had been found laying unconscious at the castle’s back gates by one of the Knights who were patrolling the area. Immediately, she was brought over inside the castle for interrogation, and met for the first time with the Lord of Luyas, Lord Ranfel Heartlets XII.  

They sooner found out that the young Spirit had known nothing of her life beyond her name and age. They were also greatly awestruck by discovered her incredible skill in understanding and speaking the human language fluently.

Despite the heavy criticisms and protests came the senators, the scholars’ deeply rooted curiosity on the young Spirit had managed to convince Lord Ranfel 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.

 

It did not take her long to arrive at her destined place. Mika stopped in front of the two maroon heavy gates. She lifted a hand in the air, holding the Crest of the Luyas Knight to the guards posting at the tower. The heavy gates opened, and Mika gave the guards a short bow, before entered the gates. 

Eyes roamed around to find a place to rest her legs, out of nowhere, Mika heard someone calling out her name loudly on the opposite side.  

“Mika! Over here!”

A tall young brunette in a full armour, waved her hand excitedly. Light mocha eyes shone brightly and her rosy cheeks could not stop grinning widely.

“Good afternoon, Lady Luna. How was your study session today?”  

“Awful. It was a miracle that I’d managed to somehow survived the two long hours sessions with Sir Lance,” Luna reached out a hand and flipped her long ponytail. She then turned to her best friend, face beamed with happiness.

“Listen to this, Mika. Apparently, the baker’s daughter just recently got engaged to–”

“My, my. What a delightful sight to see the ever so beautiful Lady Luna here of all the places!”  

A tall, tanned skinned and good-looking man with a pair of olive eyes stared at them. He had a thick messy black hair that made him looked like a sexy rebellious heartthrob.  

“Each time I lay my eyes on you, I swear you’ve grown more beautiful, Milady,” He winked at Luna.  

Luna shuddered with utter disguise while Mika maintained a calm façade.  

“Get lost, Cad!”

“Why, Milady. I’ve just arrived and you’re chasing me away? You wound me!”Cad moved forward to Luna but took a step back when Mika blocked the way.

“Why if it wasn’t the bodyguard. Tell me, have you done enough sniffing today?” He chuckled obnoxiously.

Mika cleared her throat.“I’d be more cautious if I were you, Young Master. Unless, you do want me to sniff the dirts you’ve been hiding from your father, Lord Gabriel.”

Cad instantly stopped laughing and shot her a dirty look.

“You’re just a piece of shit who doesn’t even belongs in this world. Even if you did inform my father, he wouldn't believe you anyways. As if he would believe a bitch like you!” Cad snarled. 

“Enough!” Luna yelled angrily. She stepped forward and stood between them, with a finger pointed at Cad. 

“How dare you insult a member of the Heartlets family. Do you not fear of the heavy punishment of your insult?”

“Huh! Though we knights, protectors of the Kingdom of Luyas have vowed to have each other's back and protect the Heartlets’ family, when it comes her, a filthy Spirit nevertheless, it’s an entirely different story. We would have had given a special permission to do whatever we want with her - if only the Commandant hadn't stuck his head where it doesn't belongs."

Luna gritted her teeth at Cad's comments.

“I'm done with this conversation. Let's go!” Cad tilted his head and ordered his goons.

A couple of minutes passed by in silence between those two, when Luna suddenly hit the nearby wall with her fist.  

“Damn it! I still can’t believe it. As if you don’t have enough worries to deal with the whole world goes against you, now you need to watch your back with the Knights? Whatever happens to the Oath that ensure all knights stick together through thick and thin? Moreover, how could father allowed this to happen?” Luna gritted her teeth frustratingly. 

While her dear friend stomped her foot on the ground and muttered angrily on what had just happened, Mika spoke out calmly.

“Lord Ranfel has a reputation to keep. Though I understand how greatly upset you are - and really, I am grateful for it - but you and I both know that if I were to stick up my neck out there, the chances of me winning the fight is close to zero. So it's better to be this way.”

“So you're saying it's better to let everyone walked all over you? That's stupid! You have me, Guy and Commandant Grants to help you out! We'll be sure to protect you and-”  

“-And risk your lives for me?” Mika sighed softly. “Lord Ranfel won't tolerate anyone who dares to defy him. Not even his own family. Those who dares to defy him will be severely punished. Lord Caster, who disagreed with the way Lord Ranfel handled the budget and went against him head-on, was the last victim. Let's not add more numbers to it, shall we?”  

Unable to accept the fact the tyrannical behaviour of her father, felt so helpless to stop him either, Luna gritted her fist.

“Fine. I’ll back down for now. But I will not tolerate if anymore abusive words from the Knights toward you. I'll put hot sauce on their food. Mark my words on it! ”

Mika smiled softly. No matter how many times the world around her shattered, Luna always there to cheer her up - and she would definitely put hot sauce into the knights' food.

The two knights shared an understanding smile, before they slowly made their way into the Castle chattering away to the latest gossip.

 

**********

 

IT was said that before the Great War occur, though the Spirits were superior species to mankind, they used to live in co-existence with the humans in peace and harmony. During the Great War however, they were viewed as the merciless cold-blooded predators that lusted after humans and had been known as mankind's greatest enemy since then. 

When words got out about how a young lost Spirit was adopted into the Heartlets' Family and even became the Knight of Luyas, Lord Ranfel became the laughing stock amongst his peers. Despite it all, Lord Ranfel smiled cunningly and ventured it all with thick skinned. While the world laughed at his idiotic decision, two people did not. They were highly suspicious of him, but could not do anything without any conceit proof. The two however managed to pursue Lord Ranfel to place Mika under Commandant Grants Rogue whom both have agreed and bring a great impact to the young Spirit.

 

Commandant Grants Rogue stood tall proudly with a fit figure, for a man in his mid-thirties. Tanned skin with perfectly combed silky dark brown hair that reached just below his shoulders, he possessed hazel eyes and few stubble that made him looked irresistible. Many, especially ladies, have worshipped him  from afar for his stoic and cool appearance.  

Mika was no exception. She came to admire and respected the man greatly, whom she viewed as a fatherly figure for he was a man who would never judged a book by its cover. Grants had once told her in private during their first encounter of how a Spirit had killed his beloved grandfather during the Great War. His grandfather whom he’d greatly respected and loved, had been the previous Commandant before his retirement. While Grants admitted there would always be a part of him that still held a personal grudge and hatred towards the Spirits, he had never throughout the years Mika had known the man, purposely unleashed at her. Rather, the Commandant often treated her equally like the others: firm yet fair.  

 

The day just ended for Mika as she made her way to her chamber to get a short rest before dinner. Her chamber located in between the kitchen and the servants’ quarters, that was previously a storage for food.  

Exactly five minutes later, Mika laid on a single wooden bed. The room has little space for anything else with an exception for her bed, an Oak wooden small table beside her bed and a small fitted bedroom furniture for her clothes.

 Lord Ranfel made it quite obvious where she stood within the family.  Once when Mika was younger, she overheard one of the servants whispered amongst themselves the reason why she was being isolated from the rest of the family and even the servants was because Lord Ranfel did not want her to stain the castle's floors. Mika cried herself to sleep that night and vowed to not do anything that would upset Lord Ranfel further, least so that he wouldn't kick her out for good.

 

Buried her face onto the worn out yet fluffy pillow, Mika contemplated to skip dinner as her eyes began to shut when a couple of loud knocks on her door, greatly awaken her from her near-slumber. Instantly, Mika was up on her feet and heading toward the door when the door suddenly opened with a great force and revealed the messenger. He stood at the entrance, with face distorted in disgust.

“Commandant Grants wishes to see you in his office immediately,” The messenger said coldly in a monotone and uninterested voice.

"Thank you," Mika nodded her head politely.

The messenger gave a shrug. He left quickly without a bother to close the door behind him. 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…

Heartless scoundrel.

Sighed again, Mika proceeded to get ready for her meeting with the Commandant.

 

**********

 

It didn’t take long for Mika to arrive in front of the Commandant Grant’s office. Staring at the golden plate with the name ‘Rogue Grants’ on the door, the young Spirit took a deep breath and exhaled. 

Somehow, Mika could not help but to have a bad feeling for whatever to come. Shaking her head, she braced herself and knocked on the door.

“Enter,” A deep commanding male voice answered 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 nodded and took a sit on the empty seat beside Luna, who grinned at her. Her eyes immediately fell on an older lady with a honey blonde hair and serious gaze, stood 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 the exactly opposite. 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 ice.

“Yes, Sir.”

“Good. Let’s cut to the chase, shall we? The reason why I’ve called you two over is because I have a very important assignment for you —your first official mission outside of Luyas.”

Both of the girls could not contained their excitement and were grinning from ears to ears while they listened further to the given instructions. 

“This mission will begin first thing at dawn tomorrow. In fact, it will only take you both a couple of hours to complete. Latest, half of the day,” Grants pulled out something from his drawer, a thick golden folded scroll and put it down 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 for 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 wagon 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 he remembered something else.

“Before I forget, since this is obviously your first mission outside of Luyas, I’ve ordered two senior Knights to supervise you on the mission,” Grants looked at Luna, who looked slightly hurt at the lack of trust. 

“Rest assure, Luna. Having the senior knights to accompany you does not means that I have little faith in your leadership. In order to make sure this mission goes as smoothly as possible, your father has personally requested me to send the senior Knights to accompany you.”

“My father?” 

“Yes.” Grants nodded. “This is also a good time for you to learn from the experienced Knights on how to lead your team more efficiently. Remember to heed their words and take care of your teammates.”

"I will, Commandant!"

The two Knights saluted again. Decided that would be all for now, Grants dismissed his subordinates.

“Good. Miss Claire and I will be expecting you two at the castle's gates at dawn for a last briefing. If there are nothing else, you're dismissed.” Saluted, the two knights closed the door and returned to their own quarters with a wide smile still graced on their faces.

At long last, they finally officially became True Knights!

 

**********

 

WHEN dawn arrived, the newly appointed Captain and her Brigade team were already waiting in front of Luyas’ main gates thirty minutes early for the briefing. 

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 finally entrusted  her for a mission outside of Luyas and promoted her as the Captain! 

Though anxious, Luna's mind filled with nothing but on this morning's mission, Luna vowed and determined to prove to everyone that she could be a responsible Captain just as her brother Guy, who is currently in for the future Commandant position. 

It didn’t take long for Commandant Grants and Miss Claire to arrive at the gates where they exchanged formal greetings, before quickly jumping into the final briefing.

“Remember these words well, Captain Luna: never let your guards down no matter what. Guide your team to safety, work well together as a team and keep each other safe and sound. I wish everyone all the very best of luck for this mission.”

“Thank you, Sir!” 

“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."

“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 than I could have done to stop them from leaving anyway.”

Claire looked alerted. "Would you like me to call them back? We could send out a more experienced team to-"

"As much as I wanted to stop them from leaving, this order is came directly from Lord Ranfel himself. We must not interfere.”

“Commandant...”

Grants let out a long sigh. Looking up at the rising sun, he prayed silently to the mighty gods for the departed team to always be safe and sound.

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Chapter Two: Clashed Fates

IN the Northern-West continent, between the town of Luyas and Andania, there was a vast land surrounded by thick forest. Deep within the forest, laid the home of a highly respectful and powerful Clan - the White Wolf. Three gigantic wolves statues 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. Honoured by their codes, the Clan have chosen to live in secrecy and segregation from the public's eyes.

The White Wolf Clan have ruled the Northern-West part of the land for centuries. The clan is separated into two parts: the Main House and few branch houses. The Main House generally ran the Clan while the branch houses protect the current Successor and their family members.  

 

 A beautiful woman appeared to be in her late twenties, sat graciously on the polished bamboo floors of the spacious living room of the White Wolf Mansion, enjoying the peaceful and cool wind while drinking a cup of herbal tea.

Suzumi Karou sighed softly, with a satisfying smile plastered on her face. Her silky maroon hair, braided into a neat and lovely bun, while her exotic jade eyes, looked at the gardens in front of her. She wore an Eastern traditional style clothing made from highly expensive silks; abstract shades of purple with pink floral patterns that matched perfectly with her red-stained lips.

“What a peaceful and lovely day.” Suzumi inhaled. She has spent the good amount of her time today knitting a scarf for her younger brother before decided to take a short break. Just as she was about to take another sip of the tea, all the sudden, Suzumi gasped aloud.  

Her body tensed, and eyes grown bigger, stared at nothingness, in a daze, before she quickly exhaled. Forgotten her tea, Suzumi dashed toward the exit with a strong intent to seek for the only person she desperately needed to see at this moment.

It didn't take Suzumi long to reach to her destination the moment she saw a creative cursive writing on a wooden plate that spelt out the word ‘Kitchen', hanging on the wooden doors. The delicious smell of tonight's dinner already filled in her nostrils and made her stomach grumbled.  

Suzumi took a moment to breathe in and out before she knocked on the wooden door.

“Shinji.”  

Jade eyes travelled to the back of a tall male figure in a black sleeveless tight fitted mock turtleneck shirt. Long dark forest hair tied up in a messy ponytail, while he leaned and arms busily dicing the onions on a wooden chopping board before putting them into the sizzling oil pan.

 Plum eyes glanced up slowly to look at her.  

“Dinner won’t be done in an hour. You know that.”

“That’s not why I’m here,” Suzumi calmly said.

“Oh? Then what is it?”

Shinji continued his work, slicing the cabbages and dicing the mushrooms. He hated when people disturbed him when he's in the kitchen making dinner, as it was the only free time that he was able to unwind from his daily long and hectic schedules.  

Shinji loved his big sister, but damn, Suzumi could not even cook to save her skin, and 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 ever step a foot into the kitchen, much to her growing annoyance.

 Shinji sighed and lowered the fire on the hot pan before he turned to face with both arms crossed on his chest.

“Well?”

Suzumi cleared her throat. “I've received a premonition a little while ago. She's nearby. I can feel her presence... Somewhere in the town of Andania.”

“What are you talking about?” Shinji frowned, scratching the back of his head. “Who’s she? One of your tea ceremony students?"

“Fool!” Suzumi stomped forward, and despite her shorter heights, yanked her brother's collar mercilessly down to her eye-level.  

“What the hell, Suzumi!? Ouch!”  

“Don't you tell me after all the efforts that you put into to keep her safe all these years, you’ve forgotten all about her?!”

Plum eyes grew widened when the memories he tried very hard to suppressed throughout the years suddenly flashed before him, caused Shinji to jolt.

Gasping severely with one hand on his head, Shinji breathed in deeply.

“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.”  

The memories still lingered in his head, but Shinji shook it off and immediately searched for something on his pants' pocket — a cigarette. Though he of all people in the household knew better than to smoke in the kitchen, at the moment, Shinji couldn't careless and proceed to light the cigarette.

Meanwhile, Suzumi observed her brother silently with attentive eyes. It had been hard on him five years ago, but finally, the moment that they all have been anxiously waiting for has arrived.

Shinji finished the meals he was preparing then turned off the stove. There was a pause before he silently making his way out of the kitchen.  

“I have a bad feeling about this. Be careful.”

 

**********

 

THE Retrieve Team from Luyas finally arrived the Town of Andania. The small prosperous town was relatively lively, surrounded by nature and filled with good-mannered people. On top of the hilltops, there is a famously tall monument that has an overlooking view of the entire town. It is said the first Lord, Lord Ezkamen built the monument and with the help from the Witches, cast a protective barrier to protect the town from harms.

“Isn’t this town just fascinating? I adore being here!” Luna inhaled the air deeply and sighed. "The air is fresh too because the town's surrounded by the forest nearby!"

“Sure is, Captain,” Mika replied with a bright smile. She could barely contain the excitement herself and had to remind herself the needs to act as a Knight. They were in the middle of an important mission after all.

Turned to her best friend standing on her right, Luna said, “That's right, Mika. This is your first time stepping outside of the castle's walls, right?”  

Mika nodded. “That’s right. To be honest, I was surprised that Lord Ranfel had allowed me to come along on this mission with you.”  

“Maybe he finally realised your full potential as a wonderful Knight," Luna shrugged. "If you ask me, I'd say it's about damn time that he allows you to expand your horizon of the world as a full-fledged Knight.”

Inhaled the fresh air deeply, an idea suddenly came to mind, caused Luna to grin mischievously. "Hey, I have an idea. What say you after we’ve done delivering the scroll to Lord Andania and collected the swords from the blacksmith, we’ll take a little stroll around the town? Won’t that be fun?”

Mika shook her head gently. “Didn't Miss Claire had specifically told us to return to Luyas immediately? She did mention for us not to loiter —”

Luna rolled her eyes. “Oh c'mon, Mika! We hardly get any chances to ourselves these days, let alone taking a little stroll outside of Luyas. It'll be fun! Trust me.”

“But, Luna…”

“Pleeeeease?” Luna pleaded with a pout and big brown eyes. It was impossibly for Mika to resist her request whenever she acts like this, and Luna knew this by heart. “Besides, this will benefits you on socialising with the commoners as well. It will be worthwhile and I promise we'll be in Luyas on time! So please?”

Eventually, after a long struggle of hesitation, Mika sighed and gave in.

 “I suppose it’ll be a great waste if we don’t explore the town since we are already here… Maybe we could also drop by at the Knight Station. That won’t consider as loitering now, would it?”

“Precisely!” Luna nodded rapidly.

“It will only be for a short visit, okay? We still have a long journey back home if we want to make it by noon.”  

Luna happily wrapped her arms around her best friend. “Oh, thank you, Mika! You’re the best! Let’s go and tell the others.”

 

 

Grants Rogue has proven himself countless times as the strict and no-nonsense Commandant who kept a cool head under pressure in the most difficult and tough situations. A true soldier at heart, Grants has often than not, showed kindness and compassionate when needed to be. As a firm believer in disciplinary, Grants earned his title and respect as the ‘Demonic’ Commandant due to his gruesome training. Many Knight, young and old, swore on their lives throughout their services as the Knights of Luyas, never have they ever seen their respectful Commandant Grants Rogue looked anything else but as he described.  

Imagine an incredible shock it had been for a young knight trainee to experience when he was ordered to deliver an important scroll to the Commandant’s office and found several messy stacks of papers on the floor. The whole office seemed to be in great chaos— as if a beast was unleashed and invaded the office.  

Perhaps what caught the young trainee the most were a couple of emptied Rum bottles on the Commandant’s desk and another bottle in his hands. For as long as anyone could remember, Grants Rogue barely touched alcoholic drinks with an except on social occasions, let alone be caught red-handed in a broad daylight! Being a man who holds the Knight’s Code of Honours close to his heart, Grants often shared his fair view on alcohol with his peers and subordinates and once stated, a man who does not know how to control his drink, is a man who has no respect for himself and others.

“C-Commandant? Are you not feeling well, Sir?” The young trainee asked very carefully. Determined to find out what the root of the problem, the trainee mustered his bravery and find out from the Vice-Commandant herself when the door suddenly opened.

Claire Boyce glared annoyingly at the trainee as she stood in front of the door, carrying thick files in both hands. She felt veins popping on her head.  

“For the last time, as I have told to the people before you and the people behind this door,” Her voice increased with a thumb pointed at the direction of Knights lining outside of the office.  

“The Commandant has requested not to be disturbed today unless if there are any emergencies. Neither do I!” Claire snapped. Her patience grew thinner with each second passed that she had to deal with these rascals.

“B-But Madam Boyce, we heard the Commandant is not himself today and very concerned about his state of health!” One of the Knights spoke bravely over the door.

Sighed deeply, Claire mentally counted to ten before answering. “The Commandant greatly appreciate the concerns from everyone on his well beings. However, he does not appreciate if his office is constantly being consumed with Knights who neglected their duties-least you want to sword practice until next dawn.”  

Almost instantly, the hallway of the Commandant’s office cleared out with heavy metal footsteps made haste to the exit. Even the young trainee made a rush to the door after a quick salute. It would have been a laughable situation if it wasn’t for the heavy gloomy atmosphere in the office.

Claire sighed again, putting down the files on the desk. Today by far, was the worse day of her life.

Her superior had been in a foul mood ever since the Retrieve Team that he sent out to Andania left in the morning. It had caught Claire off her guards when she’d gone to him for his signature on a few paperwork, only to find the respectful Commandant was in an alcoholic state. When asked what had caused him to reduce to this state, Grants response in grumble with a ‘leave me alone’.  

Initially, Grants had started with few rounds in a small cup, to which by Claire’s knowledge, should not be enough to make him drunk. However, after his fifth cup, Grants had decided to throw in the towel and took a full swing directly from the bottle, one after another, despite her best efforts in trying to take the Rum bottles away from his tight grasp.

Never been the one who uses her position as the Vice-Commandant in negative ways, let alone threatening someone, Claire had done exactly that to the a Knight who had come to report something to the Commandant, 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 sworn on his honour that he would not report this to Lord Ranfel, out of fear for his life and Claire’s pending wrath. This, however, certainly didn't stop the fool to tell the others about their beloved Commandant's unusual behaviour and prompted them to investigate.

Breathing in deeply, Claire decided it was time to finish that paperwork that was piling up her small desk. 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. After given more thoughts, she stood up from her chair and prepared to make tea and snacks for her Commanding Officer.

Grants Rogue sat on the chair with his hands at the back of his head, faced down to the floor. He had heard the commotion that happened hours ago but found himself too drunk to give a damn about it. Eventually, the noise settled down and he sobered up an hour later. Grants needed to thank his subordinate for her action in sending off the knights lining outside his office with her mild threat. Secretly, he’d even chuckled about it once everyone left the office.

Sighed deeply, Grants stood up straight from his chair and stretched his arms. Still feeling rather light-headed from the amount of alcohol he’d consumed, Grants' eyes wandered at the grandfather’s clock hanging on the wall, his fingers impatiently tapping on the desk.

The clock stroke eleven-thirty in the morning, thirty minutes before noon arrives.

Grants clenched his teeth. What could have possibly taken the Retrieve Team so long to return before noon? Moreover, he’d even assigned two of his most trustworthy Senior Knights to accompany them in this mission and prevent them from loitering in the town after fetching the sword.

Just then, a couple of soft knocks on his door, caused him to snap from his thoughts.

“Enter,” The door opened smoothly, revealed his Vice-Commandant carrying a tray contained a cup of herbal tea and some biscuits.

“You’ve sobered up, I see.”

“Yes, ” Grant cleared his throat. “I… I want to thank you for taking care of the commotion earlier. As well as to…Uh, extending my sincere apologies for being cold to you earlier. It was uncalled for - you were only concerned on my well being and I ended up leashing at you. I’m deeply sorry, Vice-Commandant Boyce.”

Claire silently put the tray on his desk, pushing away the papers to make a room for it. She picked the cup and handed it to him.

“Drink this.”

Grants accepted the tea and gulped it down. The tea felt incredibly good as the liquor poured down his dry throat. In one swing, he managed to finish it.

“Thank you. I needed that.”

Claire nodded. With both hands clamped in front, she looked at the Commandant straight in the eyes with a mildly concerned and serious expression.

“It’s quite all right, Sir. I trust you must have your reasons of why you were behaving as such this morning. Though if you don’t mind me asking, I’d very much like to understand the reason why,” Always straightforward and frank with her questions without beating over bushes — those were one of the many qualities that Grants greatly appreciated the most about his subordinate.

“Perhaps it would be better if you take a look at it yourself. Please, have a seat.”  

Claire took a seat on the opposite side of the desk without any hesitation, waiting patiently as the Commandant opened the drawers.  

“Has the Retrieve Team returned home?”

“Not yet. Though one can’t be helped but to wonder what was taking them this long to deliver the scroll and fetch two thousand swords from the Blacksmith,” Claire’s eyes landed on the papers with the Heartlet’s seal on it, presented before her. She gazed up to the Commandant who nodded back before she read it silently.  

Grants cleared his throat. “Normally, I’d put my absolute faith in the carefully selected team assigned for this type of mission, however, as this is a special request from Lord Ranfel himself who wanted his daughter to be promoted to Captain soonest as possible — even though the young lady is not ready for the position.”

“A Knight requires special intensive training for certain periods to prepare them for the Captain Examination. Lady Luna certainly is not fit enough nor prepared herself for the training,” Claire finished reading the papers.

“Precisely. Read on the next one.”

Claire proceeded, taking the scroll carefully in her hands. Her eyes lingered on the big capital letters written as ‘TOP SECRET’ on top of the scroll. All the sudden, she felt a burden knot at the pit of her stomach.

While his Vice-Commandant reading the report, Grants pulled yet another drawer and slammed two-pieces of report statements on the table. Claire rushed in reaching out both reports with trembling hands. She read them thoroughly, then gasped.  

“These reports came in from the Knights of Eden who were patrolling the area near the Northern Borders, yesterday. They've received an urgent report about a large group of unknown intruders who had mysteriously entered the Northern lands and murdered the Knights stationed nearby. Lord Eden has sent an alarming warning to other Kingdoms about these intruders. Should any of those intruders managed to slip away from his Lines of Defense, the good Lord wants all surrounding Kingdoms to be well prepared and to take necessary actions. As Andania is the closest town in the North-East, the possibility of these intruders slipped in the town is dangerously high.”

Grants cleared his throat. “The scroll that I’d asked the Retrieve Team to deliver, was a warning for Lord Andania should an attack was to take place, two thousand swords have already been made and Knights of Luyas have already been assigned to protect the town.”

“So the sudden increasing numbers of the Knights patrolling within Andania is just a cover-up and not in preparation for the Captain Examination?”

Grants shook his head. “We do not want to cause chaos and panic amongst the people there with the sudden increase of Knights patrolling the area. To deceive them with the cover-up is the best.”

Claire stood up abruptly, worried visible on her face as she looked at the Grandfather’s clock now fifteen minutes close to noon.

“Commandant, we’ve stopped receiving any updates from the Senior Knights in the Retrieve Team, hence, what are the odds of Captain Luna team being caught in the middle of the battlefield? Or worse, what if an attack is already taking place and —”

“Calm yourself, Vice-Commandant. The worse is yet to come. It’ll be wise for the both of us to keep a cool head at these times and not to overthink about this mater. Though I agreed with your assumption,” Grants sighed deeply as he rose from his seat and headed to the door.

“Prepare the necessary for an Immediate Rescue Team at once, Vice-Commandant.”

“Understood, Sir!”

 

ANDANIA’s Hilltop, known as a famous tourist spot in 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 young women currently enjoying the view and being surrounded by the various blossomed flowers on the field. Upon completing all their tasks and visited the town, despite the warns from the senior Knights, the Retrieve Team slowly making a long way back to Luyas when they decided to take a short rest on the famous hilltops.

“This is such a breathtaking view!” Mika inhaled the fresh air as much as her lungs could take it before exhaling.

“I remember Guy often take me here whenever we visited the town. I thought that maybe you would like the view too, Mika.”

“That’s very considerate of you. Thank you,” Mika smiled gleefully at her best friend, who smiled back.

While enjoying the beautiful view, Luna couldn’t help but ask a question that has been bothering her for a long time.

“I've been thinking…” Biting her lower lips, Luna softly sighed. “It must have been hard on you, isn’t it? To not be 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—losing one’s memories. I don’t know how you could live with it. If it was me, I’d gone mad!”

A soft breeze blew on their faces, caused each hair to flair.

“Not really,” Mika said, after a long pause. Eyes stared at the long-distance view. “What’s done is done. I've come to accept the terms.”

“But aren’t you at the very least a bit curious to know about your family? Or why you were the only one Spirit found in this world?”

“Even if I do want to remember them, I couldn’t. My past is a complete blank to me. Not knowing what had happened in the past is a frightful thing, yes, but then, I am happy where I am right now—as happy that I can be,” Mika smiled.  

Luna looked down at her hands on her laps, biting her lips guiltily. “Sorry, Mika! I can’t believe how insensitive I was asking you such questions…”

“H-Hey now, listen!”  

Mika put a hand on the other lady’s shoulder and inched comfortably close. “I have so many fond memories here! Like, remember when we were younger the three of us tried to sneak out of the castle? Guy was the one who got caught by the Knights. He was screaming desperately for us to help him while being dragged away by the knights while the two of us left him and escaped. He’d then refused to talk to us for the next two weeks, even after we'd countlessly apologised to him!”

Luna chuckled fondly. “Brother had it bad. He’d got scolded by Father that 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. The punishment of having to clean all of the restrooms was horrible! I never wanted to do anything like that in my whole life 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 close to noon.”

Luna sighed but nodded. “Let’s us depart.”  

 

 

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 battle plans and strategies.  

They passed by the greenery hills in silence, when Luna suddenly halted. To her left, were mildly gates secured by hardened steel chains. Behind the gates, lies vast of unkempt grass and tall haunting trees.

Noticed her Captain’s footsteps have stopped, Mika and the others paused.

“Captain? Is something the matter?”  

When no response came from the other girl, Mika stepped closer and nudged Luna on the shoulder. “Hey, what’s wrong?”

“Oh!” Luna blinked and smiled apologetically at her. “Sorry. I was just…These gates are the entrance to the ‘Forbidden Forest’, is it not? Somehow I feel being pulled into it…” The young Captain approached the gates.

The Senior Knights looked at each other and shrugged. One of them then ordered Mika to fetch the young Captain, so that they may continue with their journey home.

Mika silently stood beside Luna. “Hey, see anything interesting there?”

Luna pointed out a finger. “There.”

Emerald eyes strayed from her friend’s face to the direction of her finger pointed out. Her eyes grew to widen at the sight of a large group dressed in hooded long red robes with an ancient crest printed at the back of each robe.  

“Who are they?” Mika whispered.

“The real question is: What on Earth are they doing in the Forbidden Forest? And how?”

Luna was certain no one’s ever allowed to enter the Forbidden Forest due to its lack of safety and rumoured of wild beasts living within. While the young heiress was too focused on the mysterious group, she was oblivious to notice her Spirit friend was letting out few soft gasps.  

Mika frowned deeply, holding her head with one hand. Sweats slowly formed on her forehead as her pulse beat quickly. Something about the mysterious group made her head throbbed painfully. Taking a few deep breaths, Mika forced herself to breathe in deeply and exhaled.

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 gave a firm nod and turned to look at her best friend.

“Hey, are you okay? What’s wrong?”  

“N-Nothing. Just a slight headache. Probably the weather.”  

Though concerned about her friend’s well beings, after being reassured by Mika that she was okay, Luna decided to not question her further.

“We should hurriedly return home. I need to report about this to father immediately, and you should get some rest too.”

A minute later, Luna and Mika returned to the Senior Knights who were waiting for them, with one foot patted on the ground impatiently.

“My apologies for the long wait, gentlemen.”

“What happened?” asked Lee, the older of the two Senior Knights.

“As we were walking earlier, I’d thought I heard something coming in the Forbidden Forest, so I went to check it out. There were a group of people in hooded robes in the Forest!”  

Lee raised an eyebrow with a deep frown. He made his way to the gates and checked out for confirmation.

In less than a minute later, Lee rushed back to the team with a horrible look on his face. He nodded at the Senior Knight.

“I shall inform the Knights in Andania immediately about this.” Lee quickly wrote down the message onto a piece of paper. He then took out a cage pigeon carrier from the wagon and set it fly heading towards Andania.

“What should we do in the meantime? We do stay and keep a watch on them, making sure they don’t get away or —”

The ground started to shake tremendously. Before they even had the time to react, a deafening explosive echoed loudly from within the of the Forbidden Forest. The sound, followed by thick black smoke surrounded filled in the forest.

“What was that?!” Luna shouted. Her eardrums still ringing and eyes stung from the smoke.  

Another explosion quickly followed.  

This time, it happened at the gates.

 

THICK black smokes filled the Forbidden Forest.  

Minutes passed by and the smokes remained, though it was visible enough to see through.  

Sound of coughing fills in the air the moment Luna regained from unconsciousness. The first thing she did was flapping her hands, trying to clear as much smoke as possible. With inflamed lungs and aching pains all over her body, the young Luyas Heiress slowly reached out to her head, inspecting for any physical injuries when she felt dripping on her forehead.

Is this blood? Water? Mixed of both maybe?

Gingerly, Luna slowly got up on her trembling feet, with the supports of a tree nearby. The strong shock wave had separated her from the rest of her comrades. Though well equipped with strong body armour, the impact from the blast did not prevent her from suffering aches of being slammed hard against solid rock. The last thing she heard before she'd fallen into unconsciousness was a cold, hair-rising roared that echoed throughout in the forest.

Luna winched painfully, as she held on her sprained left ankle. Limply, she walked toward the lessen smoking area and cleared space, trying to relocate the rest of her comrades.  

“Mika! Everyone! Where are you? Mi—” Luna stopped. Eyes grew widened and nearly out of the sockets, the Luyas Heiress gasped loudly, one hand raised to her mouth at the sight before her:  

The amazing greenery hilltops that a few minutes ago, were overlooked the two of Fulaina's most famous skyscrapers, now raging in flame.  

Luna felt a dark hollow at the pit of her stomach.  

What’d happened…?!  

Her eyes wandered wildly. No sight of life form was found anywhere.  

Nothing.

Tears rolling down her cheeks like falling rain. Her mind deeply in confused and couldn’t seem to be able to make any sense of what’s going on in her surrounding.  

“Captain Luna! Captain Luna!” A familiar voice called out to her.

Before long, three figures rushed to her side from the bushes.

“Captain! Are you all right?!” Mika placed her hands on the young Captain’s shoulders.  

No matter how many times they all called out her name, Luna remained unresponsive. Her eyes were completely blank.  

PAK!

A sting pain on her left cheek brought Luna back to reality. Luna blinked her eyes rapidly and slowly brought a palm to rub on her left cheek. Her eyes widened as she looked up and came face-to-face with an aloof Lee.  

Lee retracted his hand and slide it down to his side.

“My sincere apologies for hitting you, Lady Luna. I shall accept any punishment that befalls on me for fitting a member of the Heartlet’s Family. However, now is not the time for us to panic. The people of Andania need our help. Please take a long and deep breath and try to pull yourself together.”

Lee walked to the horse cargo. “I’ll send words to Luyas and let them know our given situation.”

“What about the swords? The Commandant is expecting us to-”

“Judging by the guards stationed in Andania, it seems the Commandant was planning to give the swords to them after all. Moreover,” Lee turned his head to them. “What are your next orders, Captain Luna?”

Caught by the sudden question, Luna’s terrified eyes widened. Her body shook with fear.  

“I-I… I want to go home! Let’s just head home!”

“B-But, Captain! We can’t abandon Andania and flee! Moreover, the knights stationed there are not fully prepared to defend the attack!”

“Please. I want to go home!”

The two senior Knights looked at each other, with much disappointment. Though they were both Senior Knights, they had been strictly instructed by the Commandant himself not to overstep the young Captain and to follow her orders.

“Lady Luna,” Karl said. “You are frightened and traumatised from what’d just happened. We all are — especially when the enemy is unknown. Nevertheless, we all have taken our oaths as Knights of Luyas, sworn to protect the Kingdom and to defend the weak. Right now, Andania needs us. Our best chance of surviving this battle is to stay together and help each other. You are our Captain, and we will always be there by your side, watching over you back and ourselves. So please, let us fight along with the others in defending Andania against the enemy.”

At Karl's kind and encouraging words, they all hoped Luna calmed herself and cleared her mind enough to allow them to return to Andania.

“Enough!” Luna’s sudden angry outburst shocked them. “I’m truly am sick and tired being reminded of the Knight’s Oaths! Unlike the rest of you, I didn’t join the Knights because I wanted to — I’d joined because my father forced me to!”  

Luna’s heart was racing, as she blurted out the next sentences she’d soon regretted.  

“Being my father’s daughter and having an older brother whom many looked up to, burdened me with high expectations from the society. People have long expected me to follow my brother’s footsteps, climbed my way to the top and become a Knight. But no matter how hard I tried to strive to their expectations, I will never be as great as my brother…”  

Tears rolled down her cheeks, Luna covered her face with both hands. “I was never meant to be a Knight so what’s the point of going back to Andania and die?”

There was deep long silent, as the clouds turned grey and the sky began to pour. They all pondered what to make of Luna’s unexpected confession. The Senior Knights have their eyes shut with deep scowls, obviously trying to contain the deep anger within them.  

Mika lowered her gaze to the ground. Part of her felt betrayed by Luna’s confession, while other part berating for not realising 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 a much quieter voice.

“As far as I’m concerned, we’ve completed our mission.”  

Not waiting for her comrades, Luna began to walk slowly and limply toward the direction of Luyas. Trying her best to ignore the loud terrifying moans that echoed her surroundings, and the empty footsteps behind her.

Luna marched forward helplessly, not caring if her comrades followed 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, right?  

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.  

Just then, Luna heard footsteps behind her, rubbing toward the opposite side - heading toward the town of Andania. Curiosity got the best of her, Luna stopped walking and turned her head, before letting out a soft gasp.  

Unwilling to just stand and watched helplessly as the entire town being massacred by the enemies, Mika gripped on the hilt of her sword tightly. She stared at the back figure of her friend, begging that she would change her mind and turned around.

At last, her hope shattered when Luna continued to walk forward. With a final glance at her best friend, Mika speed and rushed toward the town of Andania.  

 

Two fates clashed.

One walked towards the path of safety behind the bars, while the other walked towards the path of an uncertain future…

 

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Chapter Three: Massacre

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