Loading...
Menu
Ebooks   ➡  Fiction  ➡  Fantasy  ➡  General

The Sphere: The Phantom of the West Rim

 

Copyright © 2017 by Fandy Adams
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.

Front Cover Copyright © 2016 by Gendewa Creative

E-mail: [email protected]

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 First Smile

Chapter 2 Odd Finding

Chapter 3 in the Cave

Chapter 4 A Boy of the Volk Tribe

Chapter 5 Ishtar Grove

Chapter 6 Rumble in the Water

Chapter 7 By Sweat and Magic

Chapter 8 A Place Called Peace

Chapter 9 The Legendary Sword of Tyvelon

Chapter 10 To Create a Flame

Chapter 11 The Red Haired Woman

Chapter 12 Intro Fight

Chapter 13 Sudden Mission

Chapter 14 Frost and Fire

Chapter 15 To the Unknown Darkness

Chapter 16 The Lost City

Chapter 17 Uncounted Years of Madness

Chapter 18 The Twin Flame

Chapter 19 Before the Darkness Come

Chapter 20 Terra Hand

Chapter 21 The Soul Stealer

Chapter 22 Into the Lair of Evil

Chapter 23 Cover Up

Chapter 24 Dragon of the Mountain

Chapter 25 Power of the Heart

Chapter 26 The Covenant

Chapter 27 Unspoken Farewell

Chapter 28 The Last Melody

Chapter 1

First Smile

It was fine morning in the Cibadut, a little and peaceful town in the southeast of Jakarta. The sun has rose in the eastern sky above the clouded mountains. Of the south the wind come in cool breeze. Everything looked fresh and green though of the trees few leaves fall in yellow. Creeps began to crawl from their burrows and little bugs drank on the morning dews. At the trees birds spiritedly leaping from one branch to another and sang in melodious chirping as if grateful for this bright morning.

The school year has started in the first week of July. Students passed the gate, smiling and greet each other. They show face full of happiness when they meet their friend, shy and sweet smile shown when seeing someone they loved and loathsome expression appears when they met big fat and grumpy mustachioed security guard. Gossip, hubble-bubble and laughter mixed up made the school almost like a crowded market.

Among those students there’s one who walked alone with few books hold in a hand. His face was good looking and calm, and he wore glasses with duct tape in the butt-strap. He had average height which made him rejected on basketball team just because less few inches, and his hair was black and neatly to the right like a geek who doesn’t know how to look or get himself stylish.

Suddenly someone hit him from behind to all his books fall to the floor.

“Watch your step, Rey!” Said the boy while hold the ball. Then he leaved away without remorse, even he laughing with his fellow as if nothing has happened.

No one around helped or cared about him. Three girls sitting on the concrete bench not far from him only glance to him and then they continue to talk about Korean Boyband while looked at the tablet. And someone just looked at him with pity but he just passed him without a word.

But then, like the first chapter of a love story a beautiful hand pick up his book. The scent of her fragrant had made his heart beat faster already, even before his eyes capture her. He encourage himself to look at her and there before him a beautiful girl smiled at him, a sweet smile and first he looked in this morning. Her beauty like show her lovely character – the one who make everyone’s life wonderful just by looking her beautiful face. Her sweet and delicate smiles gives a hope of love to anyone who saw it, and her brown eyes look so warm, very friendly and attentive. The girl was slim and slightly shorter than him, and she had black length-shoulder hair, smooth and shiny in the morning like a black pearl. His style was casual but very elegant and attractive.

Melody was her name. If Rey was the lowest on the list of the date then Melody was the most popular girl on the school. She was nice and friendly person. Both character and appeal were favorable by many people even for those who just make acquaintance with her.

For a moment he just stared at her. He didn’t know what to say or what to do. Although he knew her for a long time, he had met and saw her in more than thousand mornings and presently they’re in the same class for a week.

“I don’t know you like racing.” said Melody raise and show the auto magazine she picked.

“It’s for Asti.” said Rey. He looked at the girl and seems she excited with the magazine. “You seem like it too?”

“I love sport bikes or cars, they’re hot especially when it comes red. And I think it’s cool if someone skilled and professional on their ride.”

For a moment he just paused don’t know how to have a talk, and Melody just smiled in the moment of awkwardness.

“Mel!” called a girl from distance.

“Well, see you in the class.” said Melody, while she handed the magazine to him and then she leaved away to her friends.

Later someone hit him from behind again to all his book scattered. But this time everything seemed different, Rey wasn’t upset at all instead he happily collect his book with a little hum and smile.

***

Rey entered the classroom and he sat. Next to him was a tomboyish girl and she nodding like in trance – listening a song from his earphone while wrote the lyric on her scrapbook. Asti was her name. She was Rey’s best friend and neighbors since childhood. She actually pretty sweet and might be popular among 7 of 10 boys, if she doesn’t tomboyish and tried herself gross looked. Her hair was cut short and partly polished red. On her right hand she wore a bracelet, black leather bracelet and ornamented with 5.56 blanks that she got from nowhere. And she always removed two buttons of his uniform only to show her heavy-metal theme T-Shirt.

“Here’s your request.” said Rey handed the auto-magazine to her.

“Finally.” replied Asti.

“What’s that for? I didn’t know if you interested in Moto GP.” asked Rey.

“Not for me. Uncle Muto participated in bike fest, and he needs some reference to paint his ride.”

While Asti looked at the magazine, Rey leaned his back and slightly turned his head to glance at his right. And there, behind Asti, secretly he saw four girls talking cheerfully and Melody was among them. Her way of speaking was quite elegant, very responsive and attentive to her friends and each time she spoke a sweet smile look always on her face. Suddenly the girl stared at him and quickly he turned forward while pick something out of the bag.

“What you waiting for?”

“What?”

“Her!” said Asti. “Just speak to her, what you afraid of? Life’s just once you’ll die anyway.”

“What kind of advice is that?”

“Who said it was advice, do I look like a love coach?” said Asti.

Rey don’t answer a word instead he set puzzled look on his face.

“Somehow I feel that you will not make any progress. What we need now is the use of force.”

“What do you mean?” asked Rey look wondered.

Asti then took a phone from her pocket and for a moment she fixed at it. Wonder what she looked on the screen but her finger scrolling fast like searching for something. And suddenly she spoke loud, “Just hold your finger longer and ‘save as’.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Whaaat? You need permission from her?” said Asti, and suddenly she turned to Melody and her friends. “Hi! My friend here want to pick your photo, you know the one gazed softly at the flower, he thinks it’s gorgeous and nice for wallpaper.”

Soon those girls laughing at him sweetly, so was Melody. But Rey on the other side just sank his face on the bag. “Please tell me this is not real.” murmured him.

“Well, this is real.” told Asti.

All of sudden a crumpled paper hit his head from behind and both of them turned immediately. There, on the back row they saw a pretty-boy with Ivy League haircut and athletic body – a typical of cover model which favorable by most teenybopper. However behind his pretty sweet face everyone could see in his eyes an anger and hatred to all things. And down he regards to someone like Rey whom he considered as boy of the lowest caste. Beside him was thin man with long face. Both of them look have fun each other, but pretending seemingly, for they glanced at Rey and Asti with smirk on their face.

“Reno.” said Asti, looked at him with clenched fist.

“Calm yourself!” said Rey persuade her.

For a moment everything looks normal till something hit his head once again and those boys behind laughing wickedly like satisfied. Asti pounded the desk suddenly to their surprise and at the same time she sprang up and looking to Reno with grudge.

“What? You wanna fight?” said Reno.

For few seconds of tense they both stared each other and everyone in the class were silent, including four girls who just laughing minute ago. Nothing could break the tension, seemingly, until the teacher entered the class.

“Asti, teacher’s here.” said Rey pulled her hand and bring her sit down.

Asti sat with grudge still look on her face. Looks like she will not satisfied before put that cover model into cover bag.

Chapter 2

Odd Finding

The last bell have ringing, so loud, passed the corners of the school, through the walls of the classroom and pushed the desire of every student to get home immediately. The cloud on their faces gone right away and turn into bright cheerful faces just as when they wake on Sunday morning. The sound of bell was deafening, but so melodious in their ears more than their favorite music on their gadgets and welcomed with joy by many students who want to get away of routine and boredom. Without command or warning they directly packed everything to the bag, pray together and then step outside from the class, talking about what they’ll do after school end.

However not everyone get happy by that last bell, at least for some moment. As for Rey, out of the gate was a moment which hurt him, and he always felt it every time he saw a red car parked in front of the school. He knew whose it belongs, a senior who just graduated a few months ago and now being college at one of reputable university in Jakarta. But it isn’t the car or he who sat after the wheel that made him feel so, rather it was the one he came for – with sweet smile Melody kindly say good bye to her friends while she opened the car door.

Some strange feeling of cold ran through his skin when he sees that girl get into the car, a strange cold that made him shuddered even in blistering days like this. Then a minute later the car drove away and somehow he feels his fate with Melody also getting away as if there’s no fate between them but for sit in the same class for one forgettable year.

“What you looking at? Let’s home!” said Asti while she elbows him.

***

They’re walking home. The road was gray and long before them. On both side of the road there were paddy fields, stretching green and waving by the winds, with some scarecrow guarding it. Far across there they saw a complex of house but only few house built near the road, including mosque and church. The road look so quiet at the time, only few cars and motorcycles passing by in last five minutes, and one even offered them a ride but they choose to walk, for their home and school only 30 minutes on foot and the green field with its quietness always refresh their mind after school.

Asti walks on the steel curb. She stretched her arms and trying to balance herself. Along the way she babbling mumbling without subject while Rey just quietly listening though occasionally he asks few things.

“School began to open enrollment for the university, and we were told to sign up even we had just on the 2nd grade. Want me to sign you up?”

“Nah, I don’t plan to get on the college.” answered Asti.

“Why?”

“You know why, no point I being there but to be wandering idiot, yet many graduates on our place were unemployed. Better If I’d follow Bang Nadjib, keep his studio and music store. Besides I can toying around there and improve my skill on music.”

“But don’t you want something more?”

“What could I say? Music and me, we are one soul, so was basketball.”

“By studio keeper? Don’t you want something more? I heard there’s pretty good university on Jogjakarta, you can advance your talent there and if you’re lucky you will get scholarship and study tour around the world, striking your guitar in the corners of Europe, may not as famous band but at least it’s better than you play on café once a week with a fee that would spent out for one table at the same night.”

“Well, I love music for what it is and I don’t care about the paid or fame. You should know the feel when your hand strung the guitar and how when your music was listened to everyone as if you’re giving something to the world.” said Asti, staring at the sky with bright face like someone who had already reaching her dream. “Same thing will do for you. If you want to attract Melo’s attention you have to give something for her. Give her a good music, give her Rrrrroooocccckkkkk!” said Asti with high excitement as she sprays spit in his face.

“I don’t know about her favorite music but it looks clear that she didn’t like rock.”

“Ah she must like the other girls who like K-Pop. Definitely her room filled with posters of Kim Jong Il.”

Rey winced by her words “Do you know who Kim Jong Il is?”

Asti just silent with eyes looked up at the sky as if searching the answer there.

“Never mind.” said Rey.

Asti paused, her eyes bright as if there was an idea that just popped into her head but she smiled like a Grinch.

“What if we go to her house again and you sing a song for her. I’ll ask Bang Nadjib to bring a truck with full instrument and that mega-watt speaker. I’m sure he likely to help us.”

“No thank you.”

“Why? It was a good plan. She will like you in an instant with that.”

“The plan is good but your face not. Yeah, we’re going to her home with mini stage on the truck. But instead of romantic song we’ll play, well, judging from those eyes of cunning maybe it was ‘Gives You Hell’ right?”

“Actually I was thinking about ‘Beating Around the Bush’, but that’s okay too, more simple and hit the target easily.”

“Are you out of your mind? What do you think when she heard it?”

“Well, I don’t think she would cry.” replied Asti innocently.

“Just forget about that. Let’s talk about something else, seemed you enjoy my feeling about her.”

“Of course he’s your weakness.”

“How’s your team anyway?” asked him.

“Screwed, if still continue like this my team would be disbanded.” said Asti looks frustrated. “Plus, board of school not registered us in the regional championship this year. I’m sure the ‘princess’ behind all this, I can almost smells her stench everywhere in this conspiracy.”

“Whom the princess anyway?” asked Rey.

“Of course Ariani, that failure clone of Paris Hilton. I’m sure he was behind this.”

“Don’t get prejudiced. Who knows, maybe you don’t participated championship this year because of other things.”

“I’m never so sure like this. I can smell her reek in this conspiracy.” said her. “She must be wants to get revenge on me.”

Suddenly they halted by some house. It was an old house standing alone at quiet road – the nearby house was about more than half a mile separated by paddy field. A lurid wall surrounded it with rusty old gates. The front yard filled with grass, tall and yellow, with huge banyan tree stood dark and grim to their fear. The old house was white with yellow smudge everywhere due the seasons, and some parts even had moss grew on it. Looks like the door was shut tight and the windows were nailed with wooden bars. A feeling of shudder ran through their skin when they looked at it, especially to the gap between wooden bars as if someone watching them behind the blackness.

“This house always makes me creeps?”

“Well this is just a house, old and creepy but this is just a house.”

“No. I heard there’s a little kid passed by at the night and he heard a scream, scary and dreadful, like lamented on something.”

“You’re took it seriously.”

“No. I also heard it but it was different. I went home after basketball, it was after Maghrib and when I passed by the door was half opened and came from it was humming sound, like singing as it contains tone but it was recited in unknown speech like it was spell.” said Asti, for a moment she paused in dread then she turned to him. “You don’t believe me do you?” asked her.

“On most part … no.” replied him.

“Ok if you don’t believe why we don’t go inside.” she challenged. “Don’t tell me you afraid to get inside.”

“I don’t, but it will like trespass without permission.” said Rey. “The gate closed anyway.”

“Not for me.” said Asti as she jumped off the gates.

“Hey, what are you doing?”

“Come on!”

“No.”

“If the evil resident dragged me to hell, I will haunt you forever.” said Asti. “Come here! Now!”

Rey had no choice but to follow Asti. He jumped the fence and walked on the yard. For a moment there’s nothing happened but itch on their hand by tall yellow grass. Suddenly Asti got stumbled and she yelled with fear as she felt something caught her foot.

“Get off from me! Get off from me!” she screamed.

Rey get to her immediately and then he found something which caught her foot. “Hey easy, it just mailbox.” said Rey laughing.

“You enjoy it do you.” Asti look upset.

“No, how do I?” said Rey still laughing.

Then he checked the mailbox. It was rusty and broken and the name plate was covered in dirt. He swept it and found the name ‘Ahimsa’ was written on it. Then they rose and looked at the house which stood grim before them. The wind blowing cold and the banyan tree swaying whispering fears into their heart, and suddenly a crow screeched above the tree like a bad omen. They’re frightened but at the same they curious about it as if something inside have lured them to get close.

They walked around, slowly and carefully. The door was shut tight and on the terrace they found a little patch of garden, filled with flower and looks lively among withered yard. And when they walked beside the house they found old stroller and on it there’s something bulged wrapped by dirty blanket. Asti stretched his hand trying to touch it and as her hand touched the blanket something sprang out of it suddenly. They’re startled and palm their mouth to mute their scream. Soon they looked at it, a doll it was, one eyed with stain on it like crying in black tears, and not only stroller but they also found many stuff scattered there, old and broken, and all made them creeps.

They continue to explore the house. The house had an old style, maybe built before Proclamation of Independence in 1945. But all of them look sturdy and endure like never devoured by time. All the windows were nailed but it seemed recent looking from wood and bright nails.

“Here!” called Asti.

She brought him to a window. It hasn’t yet nailed but few wooden bars were below it. Asti opened the window and she jumped through it.

“We’ve came this far, come in.” said Asti.

Rey jumped the window and now they found themselves on a small bedroom. There’s only bed and wardrobe there, nothing weird there except all looks old-fashioned like they’re in different time. The door was half opened, showing dim corridor with picture and ornaments which filled the wall.

They walked on the corridor. There’s a song played among the silence and dimness there, a classic song which they don’t know much about it. The lyric tells about daily life but the old gramophone makes it sounded like a lament as if the song was sing by ghost wandering there. Then they follow the song until they found a room full of goods. All of them look antique and classic, from the painting, old lamp hanging above, Kris, animal skull, stone and gramophone which played now.

“This place like a museum.” said Asti. “I can built my own studio with all of this.”

Rey stared at her with frown.

“I’m just kidding. I never interested in something like this.” said Asti.

Rey stood and looked up at the painting on the wall. A painting of an old man, a Balinese he seemed from the traditional clothes, he sat and smoking a kretek. On the other side Asti moved her head left and right examined a Kris before her – it stands with point down but strangely it doesn’t fell at all. And then her delinquent eyes found something and without doubt she took it.

“Hey look at me! I’m Thor, son of Odin.” said Asti, as she raised a sledgehammer to the air. The hammer was made of stone, tied on the wooden hilt and looks raw as if came from Stone Age.

“Will you put it back?! What if it’s broken?”

“Geez, easy kid, this is why Melody will never interested to you. You’re always serious.” said Asti teased him.

“I will change my personality later. But now I need you to put it back. That thing was seriously worth a lot of money.”

Suddenly a feeling of horror strikes them as they felt a sudden presence on the room. Then they turned aside and there, very close to them, stood a black figure stared at them with grim face. For a moment they’re frozen in horror looked at that grim old face, and soon Asti shouted, “Run!”

Both of them ran away, passed the window and jumped the fence, and the next thing they knew they had already outside with paddy fields stretched green on their left and a horn from motorcycle passing by.

“Huff, huff, huff, that was close.” said Rey out of breath while looked at the old house hundred meters away.

“Close? We almost buried in the back yard. Did you see that grim face?” said Asti.

“Hey what’s on your hand?” said Rey, as he looked at the stone hammer on her hand. “Oh great, now we must back.”

“I will not back there.”

“But we have to give it back.”

“No we keep this and keep alive.”

“No we return it.”

“No we’re not return.” said Asti pushed him with that hammer.

Then they tugged it each other and without expected it slipped off their hand and falling to break.

“You break that ‘seriously worth of a lot of money’.” said Asti.

“No, we did.”

“What now? Still thinking of getting back?” asked Asti.

“Well, I’ll think about it later. Now we must pick up all the pieces.” replied him.

They bent down to gather it. And suddenly, as they tried to gather all pieces, they found something stuck in the middle of the stone. Like metal capsule it was, silver colored and had the size like a can of cola. Rey pulled it out and examined it.

“What is that?” asked Asti.

“I don’t know.” answered Rey. For few seconds he fixed to the capsule, wondered and amazed. He turned it over and over as if he doesn’t believe what he had just found.

“Are you done looking? We must clean this mess immediately before that old man come and after us.”

Quickly they gathered the pieces and put it in Rey’s bag while looked around, especially to the old house. Even after few moments they don’t see someone came out from that house or even a sound to yell at them, all was still and quiet there. And after they got all pieces they walked away, and sometimes they look back to the old house.

“Why all put in my bag?” asked Rey.

“Because I don’t want to carry it,” answered Asti easily.

***

It was a fine night. The twilight has went away and the crescent moon peeking between sailing clouds. Under the Great Bear a plane passed like red twinkling points among silver stars. It flew straight to the west to the Greater Jakarta.

Trees rustled as if shivering by cold night wind and the cicadas presents a beautiful choir for this calm night. And far away they heard the noise of sleepless traffic, but seemed their horn and roaring sound of engine seemed never disturb the town calmness.

Street light were turned on and glimmered on the road with soft orange hue. From the office the white collar had just parked his car in the garage. On the other side, those who earn their fortune on the streets walked with their cart, roll out their mats and then set up their unique sidewalk café. And the street musician strikes his guitar going around from one house to another.

Rey walked home. White koko he wore with blue square-patterned sarong and peci cap on the head. With him was an old man. He was Mr. Rahardjo, Rey’s Grandfather. Although he was nearly sixty years old with hair-loss around the crown and gray but he looks youthful and spirited especially with chevron on his face. He still fit as fiddle and had upright posture for people of his age. He was a man of ‘silence is gold’, doesn’t hasty in tongue and guard his speech, his lips always tight but at the same time always seen a faint smile on his face. The light in his eyes looks fainted yet his gaze was very attentive as if give meaning for everything he sees.

Later they met five men who were sat in the post that made of bamboo, doing neighborhood watch. A patrol schedule posted on the wall with some hand-made bell – a rusty steel pipe hanging in the left corner of the post with an iron hammer to ring it with a hit. Two persons put serious face on the chessboard, two others chatting about politics while drink a coffee and one other just take a nap and dreams about something.

“Good evening!”

“Good evening sir! Coffee? It’s green coffee, your favorite, traditional hand processing from East Java. My cousin sent me few packs.” said one of them.

“That’s very tempting, but this one …” said Mr. Rahardjo while show his paunch “… it will get big badaboom if I take a coffee at late night. Please come by to our place.”

“We will sir!”

Rey and his grandpa then walked into a house which not far from the post. It was simple two storey house. The wall was white and looks so homely. The front yard looks smooth and green with soft grass. Many varies of flowers was arranged on the edge and few pots was hanging at the brick wall. On the terrace there’s a table and three chairs made of rattan with a cushion on each. And a garage built on the left side of the house, a 90’s minivan was inside when Rey opened it to check inside.

Rey was lived with his grandpa only. Back then they were perfect as a family. Happiness shared almost every day and problems seemed never arose as they had always understand each other. And they were completed by the birth of Rey and his sister. But life seemed never perfect. In the morning of New Year’s Eve a car crash happened and took both of his parents along with his sister who was still toddler. Leave Rey as a sole survivor even he was seriously injured at that time.

After the accident his grandparents take care of him. Love and attention seemed never less in his everyday life, even with his parent gone. However two years ago their happiness had lessened with his grandma, Mrs. Rahardjo’s wife passed away. Even so they lived their lives with steadfast and wholeheartedly, and Asti has become the color of their lives all this time.

Rey warmed food on the table and less than 10 minutes later they were sitting at the chair. The dish is very simple, just a bowl of ‘sayur asem’ with fried shrimp and tofu, and hot tea as a drink.

“How’s your school today?” asked Mr. Rahardjo.

“Everything just fine, even better.” said Rey, as he relived Melody’s smile that still feels fresh and beautiful in his memories.

“A girl?” asked Mr.Rahardjo, gently stared to him. Long he does think to answer, but his face has told everything to his grandpa. “Then fight for her.” told him.

“Yeah the problem is she belongs to someone.” said Rey.

“I don’t see it was a problem.”

“He’s cool and had a car, shining red, her favorite color.”

“Does she crave all of that? Is that what she wants? I sold many books and I never found one that could understand women completely.” said Mr. Rahardjo. “If she really worth just step forward and fought for her, at least make a smile on her face then you’ll never regret in this life.”

“I’ll try.”

“No, you must do.”

“Ok, I’ll do.”

“That’s my lad.” said Mr. Rahardjo. Then he prepared a small portion of dish along with a glass of milk and put in on the tray. “When we out an hour ago, I’ve heard about …”

“I knew, I heard it too.” replied Rey.

“So, can you take this honor young lad?”

“Sure. Who else anyway.” said Rey. Then he brought the tray and went into his room in the second floor.

***

Rey put the tray on the table. From the window he saw Asti sitting perplexed in her bed with a headset on her head. No wonder what song comes from it but her face look so sad, her eyes was so puffy and dried tears was painted her cheek. Now she looks very different from the cheerful girl he walked with on this afternoon. Then he untied a rope and with that down an iron ladder to make a bridge between their rooms, a bridge that created their friendship since they’re little and that bridge always connected them.

With unsteady step she crossed the ladder. The girl seemed doesn’t really care if she suddenly fell from the ladder, instead she looks like a desperate person who wants to slip and fall 12 feet from the ground, perhaps – if his best friend didn’t look at her now.

“You must be hungry.” said Rey, as he offered the meal to her.

Without a word Asti immediately eat it. Both sadness and happiness were felt on her now and a tears she shed involuntarily till it fall into the meal. But she wiped it immediately, for she always want to look strong in front of others.

“Did you hear all of it? His madness?” asked her.

“Hey, I’m here, we’re here for you, always.” said Rey. “And if you still hungry, there’s your favorite lychee pudding in the refrigerator.”

For a moment they don’t speak a thing, Rey read a book and Asti eat the dish, slowly with hand bit trembled. Then after she feel better she asked something to him, “That thing we found this noon, do you already knew what it was?” asked Asti with a slightly hoarse voice.

“No I don’t. Many times I saw and observed it but still I didn’t know what it was and what it does. The hammer was well-preserved so we must think that it was really old and valuable. But something inside looks very advanced. At least a metal with that shape, with that smoothness, only exist one century back while the hammer-shell looks much older than that. It’s like we found King Tut’s flash drive.”

Asti laughing, tough in her eyes there’s still a bit of sadness left. Rey was glad seeing a smile on her face.

“My guess it was a time capsule.”

“Time capsule?” asked Asti curious.

“Like we did in elementary school, we gathered a thing and put it together in steel box and buried. From the size it could be documents, jewelry, something which not bigger than our cell phone.” said Rey. “Obviously we wouldn’t know what it was until we brought it into an expert.”

“Whatever, but if it make the news, I want the credit, I want my name was written as the one who found it. It would be nice for the popularity of my band.” said Asti.

“Yeah but you forget one thing, we stole it. Well, it accidentally stolen but still it was stealing. Yeah we’ll be on the news but for thievery and burglary.” replied him.

“I never think about that. Well do as you wish, besides I never interested in something like that.” said her. “I go now.”

Asti then went to the sill, but then he stopped for a moment and turned to him. “And Rey …”

“What?”

“Thanks, I just … I don’t know how it was if you weren’t here.” said Asti smiling wistfully. “Well, send my thanks to the old man.”

“I will.”

“Night.”

“Have a good sleep.” replied him.

Then she goes, crossing the ladder. Now her steps look firm as if she found new strength and spirit.

***

Half an hour later Rey had still sitting at his desk, watching and flipping the metal capsule. His eyes look out on every detail of the surface, trying to figure out what mystery behind it. And like before he didn’t find something unusual except the slits in the middle which indicates that it can be opened by splitting in two and the surface embossed by golden pattern like sealing it. Long time he examined it but still he couldn’t find out how to open it.

He sighed, “I’m sorry for stealing you from that Ahimsa guy.”

Suddenly, after he spoke that, the pattern-seal dispersed into gold dust and at the same time it opened. Then his eyes caught something shiny inside. He took it and stared at it with amazement. It was a crystal ball, black and has the size of ping-pong ball. Inside it there was something like countless stars swirls around the black vortex with the pillar of light pierced through the center as if there’s a black hole inside the crystal.

So beauty and enchanting the black crystal was till remind him of Melody. The crystal looks amazing, what if he gave it as a gift to that girl? Is that girl would look at him after he gave it? And like a stars inside, his highest hope is if he could find a beautiful place there – a place where he can be happy with her loved ones.

“I wish I could find a better place.” said Rey faintly.

All of sudden his room turned dark as if the shadows have consumed it. All was lightless, left only a light from the crystal ball in his hand. And suddenly the light inside spreads and burst into countless stars around him as if the black hole inside breaking out. The universe like stretched around him and he floating among the stars and darkness, yet he could steps on nothingness. For a moment he was stunned with all views in his room, if he’s still in it. Then with remarkable suddenness all the darkness, all the stars disappeared in a flash. The room back into the light, nothing has changed, only the room was empty now.

Chapter 3

In the Cave

Rey slowly opened his eyes. Nothing he could see but the faint light among dimness. He didn’t know what has happened or where he is now, what he felt now just something hard and rough like he was on the floor of rock, coarse and moist, obviously he wasn’t in his room anymore. His cheek was wet by puddles and pungent smells so thick in his nose. And his hand holds something, black crystal it was but there’s something different about it, no stars or light seen inside the crystal ball but faint gleam in the surface. Now it’s look black and solid like a tourmaline ball.

Rey tried to get up, even though he wasn’t injured at all but he felt dizzy as if there’s something bang his head from inside and made him little difficult to move his own body. He doesn’t know where he is or how he could get into this place but from the darkness and the hard rough of stone of wall looks like he was in a cave.

He walked with a stagger. Only faint light guided him in that dark cave and he have to feel his way through cave walls. Sound of water drops echoed in the deep silence and he heard wind blows inside the cave but strange it sounded as if the cave was alive and breathing.

“Hello!” said Rey.

“Hello … Hello … Hello … Hello … Hello …,” his voice echoed. He shouted 2-3 times but no answer except his own voice which always followed by strange gust of wind and it sounds more bizarre every time he made a sound. Suddenly, from the shadows behind someone swept him and grabbed his mouth, swiftly and noiseless.

“Ssshhh”, the mysterious figure whispered faintly in his ear, a man voice.

However that mysterious guy keeps his mouth too strong till Rey can’t take a single breath. He muttered to tell the man behind and the mysterious figure let off his hand immediately. He took deep breath right away and turned to see the mysterious figure. In the dim light he couldn’t see clearly who he is but he could measure that he slightly taller than him.

“Huff, huff, who are you?” asked Rey while he seized all the breath he could as if he had just ran away.

“Shhh!”, The mysterious figure warned him once again.

“Why? What?”

GRRRROOOOARRRRR!

“That’s why, run!” shouted the mysterious figure.

Suddenly something on his hand glow brightly. A crystal ball it seems and it flared in a bright green light. Now he could see clearly that mysterious figure. His apparel was like dessert nomad with dark blue turban covering his face, and a dagger tucked on his waist. They’re running fast, no direction and nowhere to go except just to run away from the frightful roar. Sometimes they got stumbled. Rey even scratched on the shoulder by a stalactite which sharply stretched down. But they seemed doesn’t care about it. They kept running and running, for the growl sounds drew closer to them.

Suddenly the mysterious figure halted as he found the branching way. Then he looks left and right.

“This way!” cried the mysterious figure as he took the road on the right. Rey don’t have a choice except to follow him.

The cave looks grew brighter and wider now. There and there he saw a shaft of light pierced the cave roofs at random and glimmered on the walls and arid ground. While running he looked back and he saw the shadow chasing them behind – a blackness which crawling fast on the cave wall with the shape like serpent, and seemed it wasn’t only one, for he saw three shadows of them at the same time.

The growl turned into roar and the wind blew hot behind them. Suddenly there’s a burst of flame surged toward them. But the flame didn’t catch them only kindled the cave in brief red light. Rey glance back while running to see what it was but he got stumbled.

The shaft of light suddenly faded and the darkness crept before him. The ground seems trembled and there, as he lied on the ground he saw something moved behind the shadows. What it was he couldn’t see it clearly; it was black and blends with the shadows, blotched with red bright mark like shape of lightning that shone red among the blackness. And huge eyes of serpent gazed at him behind the shadows.

He stared at it and paused in dreadful feeling. Then with a sudden it is appearing out of the shadows. It was a dragon, black and old like a remnant of ancient world. The neck was long with vein blazing red as if flame flows through it. Great horns like grew from the head, but it wasn’t horn, rather it was bony plate of the head which ruggedly shaped like petrified flame.

“No time for amazed.” cried mysterious figure as he pulled him to run.

The path they passed now seems plain but slightly sloping downward. And they heard faint sound of stream, far and hidden, that he couldn’t found it but little flows of it dripping on the moss-covered wall and soaked the ground beneath them.

The exit was seen now, a white light at the end of the way. But suddenly the wind blows once again behind them, but now no heat of flame they felt in the wind instead it was bitter cold stung their skin. Soon the white frost rapidly crept on the cave as if there’s sudden blizzard blew inside the cave, and at once the whole place turned into an ice tunnel to their feet slipped.

Rey screaming loud, either fear or excitement he felt, for he glide down at high speed. On the other side the mysterious figure looked at the exit with eyes wide open. He immediately unsheathed a dagger from his waist with hand trying to catch Rey.

For a moment Rey was glad looked at the white light at the end of their way. He laughed with joy in his scream, for he will get out of the dark cave and especially escape from the creature which hunted them now. But then, beside him, the mysterious figure sticks his dagger to the ground suddenly and one hand caught him as he slid out of the cave.

The laughter of joy turned into hysterical scream now, for he found there’s nothing under his feet but the land which looks shrunk in the height. The cave lies high in the mountain wall, formed by nature in the rocky cliff. Yet the works of men was there at the entrance, old and ruined. Old balusters lined along there – but few had broken, with old ropes tore and hanging on them.

“Hold on!” said the mysterious figure. “Can you get the rope?!”

“I’ll try.”

Rey then stretched his hand to reach the rope, and after few times fingered the rope he finally grabbed it. He pulled it many times to make sure that it was safe. Hardly he climb up with strong gust of wind blowing like want to drag him fall. But then, a hand caught him and pulled him up. Then they rested themselves leaning on the baluster and take a breath as many as they can.

“Hard trip isn’t it?”

Rey just nodded in his weariness.

“Better go on the beach next time. Sand, ocean, and the girl with …”

GRRROOOARRR!!!

“Not again. Jump!” shouted mysterious figure.

“What?! Are you mad?”

“Just jump!” said mysterious figure. He kicked Rey to aside till he slid and fall, and then he jumped to follow him.

There’s some frightful feeling pressed his stomach as if an angel of death sitting on it, waiting him hit the ground to take his life. And behold! Above him the mysterious figure dive down toward him and to his surprise a black figure of him suddenly stretched into a greater shadow. An eagle it was, greater than any eagle he had seen before and with piercing cries he stooping down and swept him like catching a prey. Then into the high blue they’re soaring.

Rey looked up and stunned, right above him he saw great shape of the bird, dark and powerfully built with wings stretching against the winds. Amazement overwhelmed his fear which for a moment he forgot that he was grabbed in sharp black talon, in the hold of great hunter of the sky.

Just then a roar came again from the mountain, so powerful that it filled the sky. And with that a great shadow out of the dark hollow of the mountain. For a moment it wheeled over the mountain and then roughly it smote the mountain to alight and perched with four legs deeply gripping the rock. Grand was the size of it and mighty it looks as the lord of the winged dragon. But he was surprised beyond his thought and imagination to see the true form of the dragon. Indeed he had saw the face of dragon inside the cave but he never seen the whole of it, for grew of that mighty body was three heads of the dragon. Long necked they were and wrath was on all their faces like they have shared same anger. One on the right looked up at the sky and blew a black smoke from his mouth, one roaring to below while one on the center gazed at them with rage.

The wings of demon vastly stretched and with sudden jolt it leaped to fly and chasing them. Very swift it was in the sky that it doesn’t need long time to follow them behind. Their rage blazed in their flame and their frost show no remorse. But even with flame and frost attacked them aggressively, yet the last head of the dragon in the center gave no assault, only vein in the neck glow brightly.

Slowly the dragon opened his mouth and he caught a glimpse of light in its throat. It roared and with that he heard something like sound of crack in the air, or sound of clap it might be.

“Errr, Mr. Eagle. I saw something!”

The giant eagle glanced back and he saw the light on the throat glowing brighter as if some power gathering there and grew stronger.

“Hold on tight!” The eagle spoke in human’s speech, yet his voice was hoarse and piercing like voice of the bird of prey.

He swerved down suddenly with wings folded into the livid forest below. Just then the dragon unleashed a beam of light, so bright and powerful and bold that it was like pillar of lightning spearing into the earth. The air shaken with growling sounds of thunder, and the forest cracked and flickered by the great blast of lightning.

The forest destroyed into round area and above there the mighty dragon hovering in the sky, straight with black wings waves proudly, and all three thrumming watching the sky and land. But then they spotted something flew over the livid forest.

Slowly the eagle flying and unsteadily, and very low that Rey in his hold was brushed by leaves of the forest. And black smoke was about him, but it wasn’t a smoke he seen, rather it was like the eagle himself going faded. The beak and talons like faded into dust, and the feathers and the leg which grabbed him were spread by the winds like paper burnt. And suddenly the eagle bursts into black mist and of it two boys were falling down. But luck seemed on their side, for branches and leaves hold their fall till both of them landed on the ground with their live, although not well enough.

Now they lay flat on the ground looked at falling leaves. They’re weary and in pain. And as they thought the danger had passed, they heard the sound of the roar and the woods above them flickered in red flames.

“Get up! Get up! Get up!”

Into the shadows of the forest they fled. All the trees were dark and old, and above them were thick and dense that no light could pierce them. But somehow the dragon knew where they were, knew where they go and ran, for the thrumming sound of them like overshadowing above. But at least the forest saved them; none of their flame or ice could pierce it to the ground.

Suddenly they caught a glimpse of light from above, so bright that it beat the light of the sun and pierce the gloomy forest. For a moment they halted, looked above and hope that it wasn’t as their thought.

“Come on!”

There they ran again, dreadful and hopeless, for they knew they only had a little chance to escape from it once again. They moved and ran only to survive to the end.

Suddenly Rey stumbled with his foot stuck on the root. The mysterious figure turned and helped him. Just then the light above grew brighter and faintly they heard rumbling sound of thunder in the air.

“Just run!” said Rey.

“Sorry, can’t afford that.”

The mysterious figure unsheathed the dagger and cut the root. But it was late. Beyond the forest the dragon unleash the beam of light towards them. All becomes bright that it was like the gates of afterworld have opened for them.

All of sudden, out of nowhere, a man leapt down and stood behind them, a lightning spearing from the sky he greets with a bare hand. And behold! In his hand the lightning broke, scattered into brush discharge – a brush of little flash and harmless. Around them the gloomy forest now turned into spectacle of light as if they’re inside plasma globe.

Both of them turned around immediately to see the one who saved their life. A tall and black figure he was, and his face covered by the shadows of his hood but his gray hair lengthen from the neck to waist. Blue flame was in his left hand and the last sparks of lightning still remains in his arm. Then he stared at the sky and whispered in soft voice. A moment later they heard thrumming sound of the dragons but it seemed get fainter like the dragon leave away.

Those boys get up with joy and glad, and they immediately approached the black-hooded man with thankful.

“Thank you for your …”

Have not finished his word yet, suddenly the black-hooded man attacked them with the lightning which still remains in his hand. They’re repelled and stunned till fainted. But before he lost his consciousness, faintly Rey saw the black-hooded man walked away, leaving them in the dark forest as if he had no concern about them at all whereas few moments ago he saved their life.

Chapter 4

A Boy of the Volk Tribe

Rey half opened his eyes and vaguely he saw a fire kindled on the pile of the wood. How long he was fainted he doesn’t know but all around him was dark, the winds blowing cold and night greeted him with eerie silence. The only thing he heard just sounds of nocturnal flying above the trees and the faint growl that spreads among the shadows of the forest.

“You’re awake?!” Said voice behind him, heavy and horrific it sounds like the beast of the winter night.

Slowly he turned around and to his surprise he found a big wolf stood behind him, gazing him with flame gleamed in the eyes. Huge the wolf was, about seven-feet tall with two fangs sticking out at the muzzle. Fur and hair on the head was thicker and darker, and a flat-curved horn grew at the forehead as if there’s bone dagger rise of it. The wolf grinning, drooling and get the muzzle closer to him.

Rey want to run but he was so frightened to his legs numbed. He just moved back, stepped with hand, stomped to nothing and screamed like a mad.

“Hey … hey … it’s me! Don’t you recognize me?”

Suddenly the big wolf turned into a young boy. He was slightly taller than Rey and looks bit athletic, lean muscle and tan skinned. His hair was spiky and as black as the darkness surround. His face was oval and for some way he always looks like squinting with his thick exotic brows but somehow Rey felt a friendly glow in those dark eyes. Both face and stature shows that his age isn’t much different from Rey, maybe a year older than him.

“No I don’t.”

“Well, how about this?”

The boy then veiled his face with dark blue turban, and so he remembered about the mysterious figure whom he met in the cave.

“You, but how …?” asked Rey wondered.

Suddenly the boy transforms again into a big horned-wolf.

“You mean like this?” said the wolf in heavy voice. “Get closer! Don’t afraid!”

Rey get up slowly and get himself closer with the huge beast, doubtfully and worried. Then he touched the wolf with the feeling of qualm, fears and awe fell on him as he touched his thick fur and sharp fangs.

“Oh I forgot to give my name. I am Aska Talvar of the Talvar Clan of the North Volk Tribe, and you?”

“Reyhan, Reyhan Andrea Firdaus, but people called me Rey.”

“That’s the weird name I ever heard, where are you come from actually? Namtar? Tajar?” asked Aska

“I’m from Cibadut.” answered Rey.

“Cibadut? I’ve never heard of it before. Is your place far away across continent?” asked Aska.

“Well, Cibadut is a small town located in the southeast of Jakarta?”

“I’m get more confused of what you said.” said Aska. “You’re really strange person.” he continued.

“If I may know, how did you transform into anim … I mean these shape.”

“I told you I’m from Volk Tribe, did you never heard about us?”

“No I didn’t. In fact this is the first time I met a horned-wolf and speak with it, and so that three-headed dragon.”

“You’re really odd for someone with reading glasses. Zimeth was being fairly well known, even the children know about that three-headed dragon though they never see them clearly as we did few hours ago.” said Aska look wondered by the boy in front of him, however with his form as a huge wolf he looks like want to devour him “Then how did you get in the cave?”

“I don’t know. What I know there’s a black crystal ball and somehow it suddenly glowing then the next thing I knew was I lied unconscious in the cave.”

“Crystal ball? Glowing?” said Aska, at once he transformed back into human form.

Then he took off a bracelet from his wrist. It was wooden bracelet and attached on it was three crystal balls with green hue like color of emerald and their size was same like the one belong to Rey. He detached one of it and shows it to him. “Is yours look like this?”

“Yes, it is.” replied Rey “What is this anyway?”

“This is called Sphere, a crystal orb that could grant us the ability of ‘sentient’.”

“Sentient?”

“All living beings on the planet Spheria, we call it sentient. They live on Spheria, countless number of species with untold various kind of abilities. Through Sphere we can take use of their physical and magical abilities.” said Aska.

Rey then examine that green Sphere, not only different in color but also something inside. If the crystal ball which belong to him there was a black-hole like – which is now disappeared, then inside the green crystal ball belongs to Aska there was a mini-creature. The little creature doesn’t move at all like a little animal frozen in tree sap. He was familiar with the creature inside the Sphere, for he saw it recently. No doubt it was the giant eagle that brought him to fly moments ago. And not only that eagle, he also saw a miniature of the horned-wolf and bulky wingless dragon which sealed in both Spheres on his bracelet. At the moment he thought that the boy before him had the ability to take shape of every being which sealed inside the Sphere.

“What’s inside the crystal ball … I mean the Sphere actually?”

“This is what we called sentient, in sealed state like this it’s nothing more than ornament in the crystal ball, but in its original state, it has the same shape and size of what you see of me but wild and dangerous. Suppose you found the real Amarok and not me, your finger would be stuck in the fangs by now.” said Aska, “Is yours like this? What sentient sealed inside?”

“No, mine was black with a light of stars inside, though it had been like this now.” said Rey as he showing his black Sphere.

“It’s very weird I’ve never seen any black Sphere before. Besides, it’s impossible to use Sphere which has no sentient sealed inside.”

“Why?”

“Because Sphere just a medium to use the sentient abilities. Without any sentient sealed inside, it was nothing more than just crystal ball for home decors.”

“I don’t know about that. What I know is this black sphere suddenly glowing and next thing I knew I was in the dark cave.”

“Maybe it’s a new kind of Mecha-Sphere.” said Aska as he turned back the black Sphere with little curiosity. “You’d better keep it carefully, this black Sphere brought you here if you lose it you probably can’t go back to … well, wherever you came from.”

“That’s just come to my mind.” said Rey. He immediately keep his Sphere in his pocket, can’t imagine if he lost it and can’t go back to his world.

Once again he transformed into Amarok. The big wolf then oversee the surrounding, his eyes gaze at every corners of dark woods with muzzle pointed to the air to sniff out any danger that might drew closer to them. But all was silent and there’s no sign or sound of any danger that close to them. It looks like they could pass the night safely.

“Better to sleep now. Tomorrow we’ll leave the forest at early morning.”

“Is it okay stay here at the night?” said Rey. “This forest seemed dangerous.”

“Indeed, but I’m not too worried about it. Grimwood is filled with beasts but as long as I look like a big wolf like this nothing will attack us, as long as they’re not in pack. The real problem is the forest itself, it always dark and terrify even in daytime. No sunlight or any other direction even the plants here grew in random direction, if we not cautious we could get lost forever.” said Aska.

“I think it’s a pretty big problem.” said Rey.

“Nah don’t worry, it wouldn’t be forever.” cheered Aska “We would be consumed by beasts or get poisoned by some plants in less than a week.”

Rey was surprised and dreaded, “But you can turn into that giant eagle right? We could just fly straightly through the forest.”

“The lightning attack has messed up the Gryphonite Sphere of mine. The only way to get it fixed is by bring it to some Magi to re-seal it. Good news is it wasn’t difficult to find any magi who can do art of sealing, but the bad news is the only place we can find large group of them is anywhere outside this creepy forest.” said Aska. “Don’t worry. We don’t need it to get out of this forest anyway. Before falling I’ve seen the forest boundary, we just need to walk straight for 4-5 hours and we can get out of here.” said Aska as he trying to convince him.

“Then we’d better go to sleep now. Good night Aska.” Rey immediately lay down, spent a whole day with strange experience and exhausted is more than enough to make her eyes closed in seconds.

Cold breeze of night chills his body, even with bonfire near to him. Seeing that, the big wolf then walked over to him and put down his body to warm him with his thick fur.

“Good night … pal!”

***

Grimwood at daytime seemed doesn’t much different from the night, dark and terrifying as Aska said. Sunlight strives to penetrate the forest-roof only to dying into the dim light as if the grey sky before dawn always above them. The woods seemed whispering in cold winds to mislead them and the sound of nocturnal now turned into the groaning beast that hunt in the day. The scratching noise of their steps did not less terrible than eerie silence of the night.

“Animorph Sphere?” asked Rey curiously.

“Yeah, Sphere usually has a color of crystal clear like ordinary crystal ball while the green one I carried called Animorph Sphere.”

“What’s the difference?”

“Common Sphere gave you the abilities of sentient without make your body fluffy and full of fleas. The abilities it gives include physical enhancement like make your eyes sharper or move faster. Or it could be magical abilities such as fireball or creating ice dagger.” said Aska. “But these Animorph Sphere grant us Volk Tribe to transform into a beast.”

“Looking at three of your Spheres, it seems that every being can be sealed inside, isn’t it?”

“Of course, all living being except human or Great Ancient can be sealed.” said Aska “But even so peoples wouldn’t seal any sentient in the Sphere.”

“Why not?” asked Rey.

“You’re not going to seal a puppy inside isn’t it? Most people would seal sentient which had powerful or had useful abilities. If you managed to seal the three-headed dragon yesterday you will have a Sphere which will give you best magical ability of three elements, you can freeze entire cave with ice magic or devastated a forest by large lightning ball. In short you could do anything that can be done by that odd lizard. Of course it depends on your power.”

“So that’s what you do in the cave? Tried to seal the three-headed dragon?”

“No, I’m not a Magi so I can’t do the art of sealing. Moreover Zimeth is high level sentient, your ‘valia’ must strong enough to use it.”

“Valia?”

“Our thought, our will, to use a Sphere our minds must be powerful than the mind of sentient.”

“If it weren’t for sealing the three-headed dragon, then what are you doing in the cave?”

“For the eggs, Zimeth eggs is fairly rare item, it was very expensive in the market.”

“Given what happened to us yesterday I think I would believe that it was worth of a pocket of gold.” said Rey.

Suddenly Aska halted, “Shhh!”

“What?”

Aska gave no answer instead his nose sniffing like he could sense the danger far away. His ears strained to hear clearly the steps which sounds drew closer to them and he turned to and fro as if whatever it is came from any directions and surrounds them.

“What is it?”

“Bargest, run!” shouted Aska and he transformed into a big wolf in a sudden. He bites Rey on his shirt at once and threw him into his back. “Hold on tight!”

Aska speeded up his pace, so fast he was as he trying to run avoiding the death. His eyes glanced around, watch everything surround. With sharp eyes he could see the shadows of pack running after them, one-third smaller than his wolf shape but has number about ten or more with comparable speed as him. From the tramp of running feet, Aska realized that the pack wasn’t only running behind them but also ran among the trees and shrubs in the sideward. It looks like they’re waiting for the right moment to ambush and attack them.

From their left one bargest jumped to pounces Rey, but with reflex he managed to bow down till the beast knocked down by itself. But the beast doesn’t seem to give up so easily, having bounced so hard to hit a tree but still in no time it rise up and chase them both once again in high pace.

Suddenly, out of the dark a Bargest sprang to them with maw open wide to bite them. But the horned wolf bite it first and at once slammed it hard into the ground. One even tried to attack from behind but he managed to evade them till it slip off and crashed to the tree by itself.

Aska kept running and running but he didn’t see any sign that the pack would give up, they don’t even slow down, instead he found his stamina running out. The hunt for them ended as two Bargests leap him from left and right until the huge wolf down and bumped into the tree. Rey doesn’t have better fate – he was thrown with the horn of the huge wolf almost got him.

Now the pack was encircled them both. They come closer, slowly, only shows a ferocious grin and fierce eyes. And with a crack of the twig, they start to attack one by one. Aska fought against them, claws, bites and the dagger of his horn were able to beat them one by one. But like before, it didn’t make them backwards, instead their scratch and bites wounded him pretty bad.

Wounded and exhausted, he unable to keep his shape and soon he transform back into human. He gasped for breath and his body wounded bad. At once he fell, sat down and relying on the tree.

“Hold on!” cried Rey. He immediately unsheathed the dagger from Aska’s waist and with trembling hand and cold sweat he brandished the dagger into the pack though he realized that there’s no chance to survive against them.

Two of their prey has already helpless and ready to eat, some of them even hostile to each other to be the first taster for fresh meat. They grinning, showing their dirty sharp teeth and drooling greedily.

But as three bargests sprang to them, suddenly a flame burst out of the ground and repelled the beast. Then the flame rose tall, whirling like flame tornado and formed a barrier of fire to protect them, beautiful but terrible at the same time. However, even with great flame encircling them those who inside feel no heat at all instead they felt a cold sensation on their skin. Rey then looked at his hand and strange, he was like saw a frost grew and spread on his skin.

Outside the flame, the voracious growl turn into whining and the pack of predator slowly retreated. They might not be afraid to fight against big wolf like Amarok but against the forces of nature they’re powerless. Wounded and frightened, the bargests get away and leave their prey.

“It must be her.” said Aska smiling in pain.

“Who?” asked Rey.

“Her! Just be careful when you speak to her, she’s little nagging and uneasy.”

“Who you callin a nag?!” said the female voice, and suddenly the flame tornado sparked and hit Aska only.

“Hey I’m just kidding.”

Soon the flame faded up and as the flame barrier has swept away by the wind, faintly they saw a girl approached them. Pretty girl she was and young, her face was clear and flawless. Her hair was blonde, bright and smooth, like soft light of the morning sun, and the braids of her hair was thin and wrapping around like circlet. Her eyes were blue as an ocean, both knowledge and mysteries were in her glance. Noble she looked and elegant in her unique attire, especially with a scepter held in her hand.

“Thank you Eorin.”

Suddenly one slap landed on his face followed by scolding from her, “How many times I told you not to get in Zimeth’s lair. Not to mention that they were protected by kingdom, you’ll get trouble both by Ranger and Grove and what kind of fool that could fly over the Grimwood but chose to go on foot. You always…”

Aska feels that storming words of her was little worse and more disturbing than the rush of beasts. However the expression on his face showed that he was very grateful by her presence.

“My Gryphonite got messed, can you re-seal it?”

“Not here, beside we must take care of your wound first.”

“I don’t know if you care about me.”

“I’m not, I just don’t want to pick and carry you in the back. Better you walk for yourself.” said Eorin while pulling Aska’s arm.

“Oouchh!” Aska screamed.

Heard that scream doesn’t make her being more careful or gently instead she roughly pull his arm. Wonder what kind of friendship she had with Aska but that girl seems enjoy his suffer, bit remind him of Asti. One Sphere in her bracelet glows and from the palm of her hand there’s something like cool breeze that covering Aska’s wounds. Aska look bit relaxed as if something has soothing his pain and what happen next the wound he suffer gradually recovered by itself.

Suddenly Aska rise with cheerful face and new spirit as if nothing bad ever happened to him while few minutes ago they’re almost being devoured by a pack of wild beast.

“I’m better now, let’s get outta here!”

“Not that easy. Who is he anyway?” asked Eorin.

“I …”

“He’s Rey, my cousin.”

“Really, you never told me about him.”

“He was the son of the uncle of my mother’s cousin’s half sister. Basically we like two apple at the opposite sides of the same tree, though he was plain-blood one.” Aska explained. Then he came closer to Eorin and whispered something in her ear. “His family had a quite black history so I never told you about him, and he somewhat a bit lunatic in some ways, barking self at full moon whereas he can’t even transformed. But overall he’s really good person.” whispered Aska, that spiky-haired boy smiled as he raised his thumb.

“Whatever. Let’s get out from here. The way out about 300 meters there.”

The gloomy forest seems grew brighter as they went forward. The leaves which were darkish now look more vibrant and youthful. The color of the forest now looks bright with various floras that grew there and there. The growling sound of the beast didn’t heard again and was replaced by the song of the birds and other sounds of friendly creatures. The flock flew peacefully above the woods and little creatures roaming freely among the grasses and stones.

At last they came out of the woods. The sky was open wide above them, blue and white cumulus they greet with joy. A vast plain stretched before them, bright and green, with the edge trimmed into horizon. Two large stones stood there like a gate to the forest. ‘No-Entry’ warning inscribed on the stone at the right side while the left one describe the typical clause of government – that they’re not responsible if there’s someone break in.

They walked down over the grassy plain and when they reached the edge of the hill suddenly Rey halted in amazement.

“Welcome to Lucretia.”

He looked downward and saw it at the distance height, a hill of a great city. The light of the sun had swept the entire hill and the city gleamed in pale white as if the entire land engraved by ivory. Some structure rose and grand, from a far they’re looks majestic among others, wonder it might be or just work of their greatness. And a great tower stood with pride as if trying to reach the sky, and he lifted his eyes as he saw something flying out of the tower. It was a ship, of the common shape, but it sailing in the air like some magic drove it. The city split by a great river, look grey in the stillness, some ship were there with few little boats like floating leaves. And the rail tracks stroke the city with black streak, all connected and centered near the green square at the center of the city.

“Lucretia …!” said Rey stood in amazement looking at the great city.

[*Chapter 5 *][
*Ishtar Grove *][
**
**]

The daylight grew and white clouds sailing among the wide blue, the air feel warm and shade became short as their forearm. Grimmwood wasn’t seen to them no more, eclipsed by hills behind them and the more they went forward the more they found crowd surround them, along with caravans and horses were seen bustling in and out if the city. And at the distant Rey saw a train crossed in the north but soon vanished as it enters the city.

There, as they went forward he was halted and his eyes astonished by two grey giant ladies which stood towering and guarding the Archway with hollow eyes staring cold at humans who passed through the gates. They’re gigantic graven idols, the remains of the thousands years old of ancient regime, the two of the eight guardian of Ishtar which guard four cardinal directions in the city. Their left hand clutching a staff with great length that almost looks like a pillar for human eyes and their right hand was raised palm upwards into sky with rootless flame of magic lit on it. Amazed and frightened fell upon him as he went closer, the glory and grandeur of the ancient power in the past still reflected in the figure which stood firm in their silence.

All of sudden two soldiers who stood near the pedestal halted them. Brown outfit and silver armor as the uniform and then they take off their helmet only to show intimidating face. At first Rey was frightened for he was the only stranger among three of them, but instead of him they rather look at spiky-haired boy beside him. Then one of them searched Aska and cynically interrogating him but Eorin and Rey were ignored by them as if the soldiers just want to make everything difficult for Aska, even to step a foot.

“Let’s go!” said Eorin.

“But Aska …”

“Just let them take him away, a few days here and you will often see this short of things happened to your bro.” said Eorin. “Relax, he will be behinds us before the train set off.”

Later they went without Aska. Just then he turned back looking at Aska who still dealing with those soldiers but seems he will be okay as Eorin said. As he stepped out of the archway, suddenly he was halted and startled by the sound of roar – a strong and deep cry which reminds him of a winged creature that almost killed them yesterday. He looked up right away and there on the broken pedestal lies a mighty dragon like guardian of the gate. Dark he was under the shade of the arch but when the light smote his scales it gleamed in brown reddish. He bent down with wings folded and finger-horn hold on the stone, and the face of ancient watching the land and peoples beneath him as if guarding them with strong thrumming come from his jaws. Upon it sat a soldier, clad in red scale armor and bore dragon-shaped helmet. A bladed polearm he wielded.

Then the dragon rider raised his weapon to command his winged steed. The dragon loomed up and the shade crept over them as the vast wings stretched, and with one stomp the dragon sprang to fly, soaring into high sky with roar trembles the air.

“First time see Wyvern?” asked Eorin.

“Yes, no, I mean just nice to see the one-headed that doesn’t intend to kill you. I’ve had bad experience with three-headed one yesterday.”

“Zimeth and Red Wyvern is just an animal. They wouldn’t attack if we don’t violate them. You must be done something that made them go mad, isn’t it?”

“Well, he just told me that he after the eggs.”

“That stubborn fool, I don’t know what on his mind to deal his life with such concert.”

“What concert?”

“You’ll know soon.”

Later Rey saw a block of restaurants, cafes and food stores. Each one has a name and a concept that’s sounds unique like Trickster Tavern, a café that sells imagination and has a target market for single and desperate, someone just need to bring himself to a romantic date with women he ever dreamed. Even on the board there is a special menu which offered at a very cheap cost, just 60 crone, 20 crone more expensive than the price of a glass of water and a piece of bread flour in the capital as Lucretia. But with 60 crone in Trickster Tavern someone can get the most delicious food they had ever eaten in the sense of imaginary, a glass of water can look like a colorful juice or a piece of baguette can be tasty and tender as a steak.

Not far from the café there’s a weapon store that sells a variety of weapons, from swords, arrows, spears, mace till dagger and knife. Low-prices of weapon were placed in a wooden box and each were given a price tag at the handle ranging from 50 to 500 florin and the regular one displayed and filled on the wall. While the special one displayed behind the store keeper, they look very artistic for someway even more like an ornament than a weapon. But the weapon store looks quiet, not much visitors there except two peoples who just came to look around.

And hundred feet from the weapon store, there are two Sphere stores which separated away by few meters. What has been done by Aska and Eorin with their Spheres made him thought that the Sphere was some kind of magical artifact which couldn’t be posses by anyone except them with the privileges or gifted one. But what he seen now have change his mind, now he think that the Sphere was no different than a common gadget in his world which everyone could posses it, either for good or bad purposes.

Along the way, Rey have been made astonished by the unique thing and sight which he had never seen before. Unique architecture and eccentric fashion which only had been in imagination of human beings and magical technologies developed from an unfamiliar alien civilization. Somehow he felt strange and unusual for this places, indeed he was the kind of boy who never seeks for adventure except to the green hill outskirt of Cibadut but wherever he set foot on earth he would find peoples who are busy with his gadget. However this time he didn’t find a single person who’s smiling at their screen, instead he saw a tall guy with long disheveled hair, a long sword was on his back and a head of the odd monster was in his hand but strangely no one notice him but a few as if it was common sight for them.

Later Eorin brought him to a train stop. Five benches lined along about ten meter with glass canopy sheltering them. There, they sat and wait for the train and their halted friend. Eorin looked at the rail far there and hoped Aska catch them before the train arrive. While Rey fixed to a poster on the edge, two persons leaning back each other with an ice city as the background, a drama titled “Spring in the North End” and will be play on the stage this summer. And down there he saw the pillars hold the rail, carved with the shape of mountain giant as if they’re enslaved by the humans to bear the rail with their back.

A few minutes later the train arrived and stopped before them. The design like represent the modern era of this world, it shaped rounded rectangle, smooth and unpointed like a common bus but 2-3 times longer. Ivory white is their color and embellished with golden stripes. Some ads painted on the body from luxurious trip with an airship till promo of the concert.

A hand suddenly landed on his shoulder to his surprise. He turned around immediately and found Aska has stand behind him out of breath.

“What take you so long? We almost missed the train.”

“Don’t ask a word.” said Aska look upset. “Why he could be so mad at me?”

“How do I know, you seems have a ‘troublemaker’ sign on forehead.” said Eorin.

Three of them entered into the train. Aska sat and leaned his back with hand on his head while Rey looked out to the window with excitement like a little kid at first trip. Without his notice Eorin steal a glance to him, many questions on her mind about him especially the odd attire of him. However the way he looked the window, honest little smile on him makes her, for now, seen him in good thought.

“Is it okay? I didn’t bring any money.” whispered Rey to Aska.

“Well, you can use my one-month voucher that I won from the contest.” said Aska give him a card. “It’s already good for nothing since I had student railcard. With that you can go anywhere you like without spending a dime.”

“Really?” said Rey look excited.

“Yeah, but sure you couldn’t go to anywhere right now considering it’s the first time you came to Lucretia.” said Aska “That’s why I’ll give you a free tour. Where do I start?” 

“What if we start from the beehive building over there?” said Rey, as he pointing to a large building which looks very similar to the skep.

“That was Ishtar Lodge, the place where the hypocrite … I mean bureaucrats get together and discuss everything about politics and other bullshit. It’s very tedious, from the first time I set foot in this city I never stood a hundred yards from that building.” 

“That bad?” 

“Worse, never ever dream of it.” said Aska. “And around Ishtar Lodge was administrative complex, full of paper and the rigid monotony. Basically it was dull place with dull people.”

At once someone who sat across them look him sharply as if he was offended by what Aska said.

“And oval building there was called Ishtar Shell.” said Aska, pointing to an oval-shaped building. From the distance it was looks like half-submerged eggshell, the metal dome was parted half with the glass curtain. “It is a military building, everything about defense and security of the Kingdom of Ishtar was lied there, slightly worse than the Lodge especially the generals.” 

“Next from Ishtar Shell is Gilgamass Stadium. You can see many great Sneakers match over there. There would be international match next month, Arema Griffins versus Beauregard Flame. I’ll take you to watch it if you would help me find ebony sap in Grimwood and trust me, there will be no bargest this time, for we just stepped on the lighter part of the woods.”

“That sounds interesting.” said Rey. His eyes still fixed on the stadium while imagine what kinds of games played there.

“Well then, if you agree to take a part in this business you should know our stores.” said Aska, as he pointing southeastern most of the city which appears slightly odd, various color of checks filled that district. Furthermore it looks messed up and shabby than any other parts of the city, skid row of tents covered the black stripes of rail track – seems it abandoned for long time.”

“It’s the Rampall Mart. I sold all my findings there. Peoples there were tough in deal and hard to compromise. Trust me! If you don’t careful you can be deceived by them and just bring nothing or it could be worst, you will go home … naked.”

“Really?” said Rey look disbelieved. “Well, in my store we’ve always give normal price so I’ve only give out about 3-4 sentence to make deal happened.”

“You have a store?”

“My grandpa had, just a little book store and I’ve just helping him after school.”

“Good kids! I guess you never got paid for that.” said Aska.

“How about the building with the statue over there?” asked Rey as he pointing to the domed building with a statue of man on the top of it.

“It was narcissistic museum.” said Aska.

“Pardon me?”

“We call it Pavilion of Sanvierre. Actually that place was a museum, created to tell the most ‘honorable and courageous’ House of Sanvierre. From they were against and overthrown Queen Astarte less than a millennia ago till they did ‘the biggest part’ in the Dark Lord fell decades ago.”

“They sound great.” 

“Yeah but that ‘courage, honorable, heroism or any good deed’ part was just fairy tales.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, most of the bastards here bear the name of Sanvierre. The Lower House led the gangs and controlled the street while the Greater House like House of Sanvierre unofficially and informally became second ruler of Ishtar.”

Rey glanced to Eorin at the same moment, distress looks clearly on her face when the name was spoken off. Wonder what story she had with them but her expression more explained than Aska does, that those who had the name of Sanvierre should be avoided.

“But eastern district wasn’t called Arts and Cultural District because of that narcissistic pavilion. But for there are many buildings of arts and cultures, there are museums, exhibition buildings and studios.” said Aska “And not to forget LCE88 Theatre, heavenly place of the well-known and most popular LCE88.”

“Heavenly place? Get real.” Eorin mumbled and look of disgust was on her face.

“I’ll take you there someday. Believe me! One stare and you will like them in an instant, you would be astonished with the first show and leave them would be sorrow. Ah Maruru, I would like to meet and handshake with you once again.” Aska’s face turned like someone who get hypnosis, stare into empty space with blank eyes but happiness looks much on him.

“Believe me! Steps there once and you will like him in an instant.” said Eorin, looking at Aska who still doesn’t get out from his delusion.

“My grandpa said people deserve to be happy in their own way as long it’s not troubled the others.”

“Yeah, but still I hate this part of him.” said Eorin looks upset.

“If I may know, where are we going actually?” asked Rey.

“Ishtar Grove.” answered Eorin.

“It’s a theme park?”

“Theme park, you really came out of the jungle do you?” Eorin laughed, while looked deep on him. “Do you think what else we do at this age? Look at the windows!”

Rey looked out the window and then his eyes gazed in growing wonder and amazement. In the distance he saw a huge building, very unique the shape was, from the front it was like a prow of ancient Viking ship, smoothly convex and looks layered by floors. A blue column curvedly splits the center, connecting from top to bottom, an artificial waterfall it seemed, or maybe a river in the transparent glass, and the green roof on the top swirling downward into the east wing. However the building seems was only a part of Ishtar Grove, a main building it might be, for it stood in the center of vast green plate surrounded by another building and bordered with great wall-ring.

“Need a guide book?” asked Eorin to Rey who looking at it with amazement.

***

They brought him now into the front yard of Ishtar Grove. It was vast and green, almost like a park with white paved road. Spring came earlier this year and the trees grew perfectly under the warm sun, and the grasses and bushes looks tilled well by gardeners. There were wooden benches with unique shape, mostly under the trees he found them, and seemed it weren’t lies on the ground but grew from the earth. And there, he presented with common things he often saw at the morning when passed the gate – teens with their hustle bustle. Books and bags were on them, either joy or stress was looked on their faces. Some girl looked and smiling at him but other stared oddly at his fashion. Not far from him he saw six peoples gathered and playing music, but suddenly one of them halted and told them that they should be more serious because the festival will be held in few weeks – whatever it was. And dismay looked on him when he saw a geek who suffered a similar fate as him, though not actually same, for he saw someone has freeze the lower part of his body and then they take all his books and stuffs, and throw it with laugh, seemed such problem exists in any realm. But somehow he felt some excitement on that place, the same feeling when he stepped on the school at the first time, an old feeling for friendship and knowledge.

“Hey Aska!” a young boy called him with a looks of worries then he smiled to the blue eyes girl among them, “Hi Eorin!”

“Hey, I’m here, why you called me?” asked Aska.

“Oh I forgot to tell you.” The boy then whispered something to his ear and moment later Aska’s faces also turned worry like him.

“Is that true?”

“I heard myself, he introduced himself as Adjucator Covach, and he came for you. Well, not you exactly but he looking for someone who just get out of the Grimwood.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know why. Actually what are you doing there until you didn’t came home last night?”

“I almost got eaten by a pack of Bargest hours ago. Do you think I set a camp there just for fun?”

“Well, there’s an upcoming concert less than a week. At this time you will do anything to get more florins.”

“Even so, I planned to go there alive.” said Aska “Just forget about it, what else did you heard? Did you hear they spoke about three-headed dragon?”

“I think so, I heard they also mention about Zimeth.”

“So they send an Adjucator to arrest me. That’s cool.” said Aska look excited. 

“Arrest you? I think not. From what I heard, those Adjucator even wondered how you could get away from Zimeth. Maybe he came here to recruit you.”

He was shocked by the news and for a moment he stood frozen. Neither the beast or dragon he feared, nor detention or punishment since it was just his monthly activities, but losing his freedom by joining service is what he feared most, cuffed by rules, no joy no fun only order and command, at least that what in his minds about services.

“Do you think I should go see him?” said Aska bit nervous.

“He’s an Adjucator, things could get worse if you don’t meet him. Man at his rank could easily send you off into White Continent.”

“And when that happened you couldn’t even dream off about Maruru. Ahh, I could Imagine that she eventually meet someone here, maybe one of his fans, maybe someone like you, or lesser. Then they get married, held great and unforgotten celebration ever while you staring at her icy photos in the bitter cold of Northwhite.” said Eorin provoked him.

“Ok, better I go now.” said Aska.

Eorin smiled like a Grinch when Aska ran in hurry. But only in second the boy turned around and whispered something to Rey.

“Eorin will take care of you. If anyone asked just say that you’re my cousin and if they asked you further just act crazy.”

“W-what?!”

“Just say that you lost your brain, umm I mean lost your memory.” said Aska.

Aska then left them with hurry. Meanwhile the boy still fixed on Eorin, bright his eyes was when looked at her as if there’s star sparkling inside it.

“So Eorin, do you have time this week?” asked the boy.

She immediately grabs Rey’s arm and put a fake smile on her face. “Oh I’m sorry. As you can see I’ve already got a date.” replied her.

“What?!” said Rey confused.

“Right?” said Eorin smiling to Rey, but behind her back she secretly pinched his waist.

“Y-yyeeaah!” cried Rey holding pain. 

“Oh, I see.” said the boy bowed as if he just lost a hope. “Well, if you have problem with him, or anyone, or anything, call me.”

“Of course.” Eorin promised.

That boy left them and looks like he walked with a limp along the way. For a moment he like see himself from the back.

“I feel bad about him.” said Rey.

“You do? Wow that’s very pure heart of you.” Eorin speaks pejoratively. “Let’s go.”

“Where?” asked Rey.

“To his room of course.” answered Eorin.

***

The headmaster’s office looks wide and bright. Sunlight pierced through three large windows facing to southwest, and behind them a green garden stretched to the edges where the city looks shrunken from the height. A wooden desk lies after the windows with black leather chair. Few books piled on the desk along with some documents, and beside it there’s a picture of an old man with cheerful smile being in arm of a young red-haired woman. A name plate made of woods was at the center of the table with a stroke of black lettering, “Alden Bytheroot – Headmaster of Ishtar Grove” was read on it.

The room feels warm in the color of wood, books were well ordered in shelves along with folders, few antiquities was there from painting to sculpture, but some part in the corner filled with daily stuff like rod, hat and folding chair, even umbrella and sword was placed in the basket together.

There the old man stood calm watched the garden through the windows. Indeed he was an old man but cheerful smile that spread on his round baby-faces made him looks younger as if his face wasn’t conquered by his age. His hair was dark and neat, and his attire was modest, clean and presentable. Sometimes he fixed his collar or playing with the button on his olive-green vest.

The grey eyes behind the glasses stared gently at the garden before him, yet his attention drew to somewhere else, as he listened to someone behind. He was a man, pale-skinned and tall with brown greasy hair. He wore a midnight-blue uniform and silver insignia was worn on his left chest. A curved sword was mounted on his left waist, it has green-brown tassel on the hilt and the scabbard ornamented by chromed-metal. Carefully he spoke to the old man with his cold voice, but it wasn’t a respect that made him so rather it was like there’s something he tried to hide.

“The dragon give enough destruction in the woods, fortunately they don’t take their chance to get into the urban area.” said the pale-skinned man “Still we don’t want to make this happen again, we want to take the one who responsible for this.”

“I never thought that The Shell would give any concern about the dragon. Nevertheless this dragon things was under the Ministry of Natural and Terrestrial, not to mention that you don’t have any right to take one of my student without my permission even if you have proof that my student had responsible for this.” said the old man. “It will be easier for you if you speak the truth Covach. It’s all about ‘him’ right?”

“You already know?”

“Just rumor about his presence, but your coming here have make sure of me. It just I don’t expected you came this fast.”

“He was become our top priorities for now. So we gathered many sources as fast as we could, and forces had been dispatched to the forest to find him.”

“I think Sahagin gone too far on this.”

“His son and their family were killed in the incident at Belitshe. I think that reason was more than enough for everyone to make it personal. Pardon me, but as his friend I thought you’re more knew him than me.” said Covach.

Headmaster paused for a moment. There’s brief of sadness in his eyes then he continued to ask, “How could you conclude that Artharis was here?”

“Yesterday the rangers saw out of the Peak Cave a Zimeth flew to the sky pursued a Gryphonite. It’s very odd to see that bird here while their habitat far on the south. So either it was lost bird migrated in the wrong season or more reasonable if we just assume that it was …”

“Volk, and I knew the one who had that shape. I’ve sent his friend to look for him this morning, and seemed they’re fine since you have informed me that three of them had leaved the forest safely.” said Headmaster. “While waiting why you don’t tell me about Shell reformation? I heard that there’s change on recruitment and promotion system.”

“Why you’re interested on that?”

“I’m head of this Grove. It would ease my students if I could provide them better information about their next place, whether Shell, Lodge or any other place.”

***

Aska walked down with deep misgivings, brightly white corridor made him almost like walking into the other side of the world, between his freedom and duty. Six feet from the door was like the furthest distance he ever took in his life. The old pictures of former headmaster lined along the corridor. In his eyes their smiles and eyes look taunting him, as if they were conspiring to put him into service. His mind in chaos, filled with the imaginary military lives – strict rules, eat ration foods, mopping entire camp and getting up before the sun rises and above all his face will turn into the like of Sahagin. “Nooo!” Aska shouted in his mind.

As he got closer, he sneaked along the wall. The door bit opened and his ears trying to catch the conversation inside. At that time Covach and headmaster talked about General Septuagin’s nephew who had just got promoted as the Captain of the Dragon Rider, and they discussed his thesis about how to tame great dragon such Zimeth like has been done by Princess Selena and made them as the winged steed for the Royal Dragon Rider in the future. However his own bewilderment made him heard only about Zimeth and military, convincing his prejudices that two peoples inside were talking about him join the services.

Slowly and trembly he opened the door and like no hope left in his life, his eyes stared blankly at both man before him.

“S’cuse me, I’m I interrupting?”

“Not even a moment, please come in!” said Headmaster Alden. 

“Looks like you guys busy now. Better I go and come another time,” said Aska tried to avoid them. 

“No we only had light conversation, so please come in and join us!” exclaimed headmaster. 

“Maybe I had misinformation but my source told me they found two different footprints, where’s another one?”

“I think one is enough for you to ask. After all I’m sure he was the mastermind of this incident.” replied headmaster. “So I’m sure he knew more than the other one.”

“If I may know why I’ve been called here?” 

“I think you already know why.” 

Aska immediately sank to headmaster’s knees, begging and crying at the feet of the old man with crocodile tears set on his face. “I swear Sir! I did not mean to disturb that dragon’s lair. I intend to do social research on the dragon, please don’t punish me! Don’t put me into the service!” said Aska, clutching and tugging at the headmaster’s trouser.

“I’ve never seen anyone who dared to enter the Zimeth cave but have no guts against the detention from you. Did Grove have changed? I thought you had left the old conservative ways and trying to be progressive.” asked Covach.

“No, he did always like this, be over on everything.” said headmaster “Erase your crocodile tears, this isn’t about Zimeth.”

“Really?” said Aska, stared at the headmaster with bright cheery face, but soon he knelt again on his feet. “But you will put me on the service right?”

“Who told you that?”

Once again his face turned to bright and cheerful directly after knowing that he doesn’t have to go into service. Then he looked at headmaster with confidence and smile. Seems he already forgot how he was few seconds ago.

“So what’s happened Jumbo?” asked Aska, rounded his arm to headmaster’s shoulder and act buddy-buddy with him.

“You’re just from the Grimwood isn’t?”

“Yes, why?” replied Aska.

“Did you see anyone or anything suspicious?” asked Covach. 

“Few.”

“Few?” 

“Bargest, rodent, you know how Grimwood made you creeps, right?” said Aska with funny expression. “What this is all about?” 

“Can I believe you?” said Covach with his eyes intimidating him. “If I got you leaked it, next time I steps here and you’ll be dragged into Shell immediately.” 

“Of course …” said Aska swallowed. “You can trust me as good as you swallow monkey milk.” 

Covach just grimaced when he heard the odd parable. “What do you know about Artharis?” 

“Artharis? The Legendary Artharis?” 

“He’s just a criminal, nothing more!” interrupted Covach with high tone.

“Take it easy man! This is why I do not want to get into Shell.” said Aska “Mmm, what I know about Artharis … well, he’s one of General of The Kingdom of Bulan, very great knight, so great that he was got the title of Sin, a highest noble status in his Kingdom. And very well-known in our ground for defeating Dark Lord in the Battle of Elderon.” said Aska “Is this verbal test? Or you asked it for another reason?”

“For truth, these men who felt ‘Shell needs talented boy like you’ suspected that Artharis currently resides in Grimwood. Did you meet him there or not?” asked headmaster.

“I did meet suspicious person but I don’t know whether he Artharis or not.”

“How did he look like?” 

“I couldn’t get his face only his long grey hair stretched out from his black cape, like evil wizard of old forest.”

“Is there anything else?”

“Nope, but a blue flame kindled on his left hand. I don’t know what kind of magic it was but he swept and held that huge lightning ball with that burning-in-blue hand… well, some sort of it.”

“Blue flame, the Sword of Eternity, no doubt it was him.” said Covach “What else do you see kid?”

“We just got a flash date. That man stun us with lightning at first met and leave us unconscious. I don’t know what’s wrong with that guy, maybe he just broke with a girl.”

“You didn’t lie aren’t you?” said Covach glowered at him suspiciously “Because if you do, I will drag and sent you to the Northwhite next time I step here.”

“Well, as you heard my students just had a little more luck than the rangers.”

“Rangers, what happened to them?”

“They’re attacked not far from the campsite and I think it’s yours since my scout told shoes and great size of paws printed on the same ground there.” said Covach as he glanced to that young Volk. “However they’re lucky enough as the attacker leave them with their life even it’s not good enough to make them open their eyes in few days. We can’t found but one who still hold his eyes and tongue. From him we succeeded to gather information, a little but still useful and very similar with this kid told us about, black caped man with blazing blue on his right hand. Great in strength but the most interesting part of his story is all their magic broke against him.”

“Broke?” asked headmaster.

“Well, you can ask this kid whether it’s the exact word to represent what he saw or not. Beside you know the one who could do such thing.”

They paused for a moment then headmaster asking to Covach, “So what will you report to Sahagin then?”

“I will tell what he wanted to heard, that Artharis was here.”

“Did you know that kind of report will put your men into danger?”

“I knew. If it isn’t Artharis the forest itself will suffer us and cut our number into half in a day. But at this time General wouldn’t care about anything except to hunt him down, even without this info.” said Covach. “Maybe his good friend could persuade him and calm him down.”

“It’s been years since he doesn’t listen to me anymore.” Headmaster shows nothing but sad smile on his face.

“Then my visit end here. May I excuse? I’ve had other things to do.”

“Then I just can give ‘good luck’ to you all.”

“Thank you.”

Covach then walked over to the door followed by Aska behind as if he was his assistant, seems he attempt to leave the room normally. But his effort was failed when headmaster call him before he could reach the door.

“Not so fast young man.”

[*Chapter 6 *][
Rumble in the Water]

Rey and Eorin walked slowly down the porch, looked around the dorm. The building was shaped an oval and built in five levels overlooks the central garden with a fountain. The porch was tiled in light brown and railing with baluster and pillars which covered with vine. The wall was clean with letter box at the left side of the door but each door has their own color, some just plain with number on it, few have stickers scrambled and the others painted with some character like cartoon.

Only boys wandering around there, and they looked at Eorin with half wonder and half excitement. Some boys just smiled at her, others were shamed and bow his head while one guy greet him like they’re close each other, Velkan was his name, he looks fair and tall with his wavy hair to his neck, his clothes looks formal and spine sword was in his holds like he’s about to attend ceremonial event.

It was long conversation and Rey wait in his silence and unknowledgeable, for none of the subject could get into his minds. Suddenly, as he looked at the central garden, something strange happened. All boys running away with rush, the gate closing and less than half minute the central garden was empty. Then on the other side of the porch he saw the boys crowded, gathering around, shouting and yelling some name.

“What happened?” asked Eorin.

“Just another match.” said Velkan.

“What match?” asked Rey.

“You’ll see.” replied Eorin.

Suddenly there’s a blast from the fountain, the water gushing out furious like a bursting flood. Soon the central garden and pave road drowned in water and it rapidly climbing up with grumbled sound as if the place was going to sunken. Rey was surprised and scared, he holds Eorin’s hand immediately to bring her escape but instead of follows him Eorin just laugh at him.

“You just out of the cave do you?” said Eorin laughed.

Now the flood reached their floor. But strange, the water didn’t flooded to their floor nor they see a spill crawled to their toes instead it raising and filling before them like there’s some magical barrier hold the flood. Rey stepped back fearing that the raising water before them will broke at any time. However a look of awe was in his face when he saw fishes tried to swim against the currents that dragged them.

Before long the central garden turned into a giant aquarium before them. Up there the sun was almost reach the zenith and sent forth rays which piercing the surface above until it seemed to them a fountain of light wavering inside the blue. And below he saw no green garden anymore, no grasses or plants under the sun he could recognize, only coral and algae with many kind of fishes swimming there and there. He stretched his hand and touched the water before his eyes, no glasses or any object concealed the liquid, it even rippled when he touched it. Cold and fresh he felt as he dipped his hand into water and he smile in amazement looking his wet hand.

“He’s like kid, touch everything he sees. Who’s he?” asked Velkan.

“Aska’s cousin, so far I knew.” said Eorin with keen eyes, as if want to drag the truth from him.

“Another Volk as your guardian, that’s good.” said the guy. “Speak about Volk. It is Azra who perform now. That’s why they turned the garden into aquarium.”

“In this fish tank?” said Eorin curious. “And what will he do? Catch a little fish?”

“Nah, I don’t think they crowded here only to see feeding frenzy.”

‘Azra! Azra! Azra!’ everyone there yelled a name. Then out of the crowd they saw a guy stepped forward with poking and yelling about him. He was bald and muscular build, and when he realized there’s a girl gazed at him suddenly he took off his shirt and posing to exhibit his muscle. The crowd turned boisterous, laughing and whistling. Eorin then presents him a smile, but it wasn’t smile to cheer him up, rather it looks like she waiting or commands him to do something idiotic.

Seeing that smile the guy jumped in and broke the water to dive inside. Swift and free he was, and longer breath he had like inside the waters his lives belong. Then after a minute he’s having fun inside the water the guy then gives a sign to the others.

“Unseal the monster out boys!” cried them.

One of them throws something into the water. Under wavering light Rey caught a glimpse of it. It was something like a golden gear with a Sphere attached on it, and it sank deep to the bottom in no time.

Suddenly, from the bottom a burst of bubbles rushing wild into the surface and just a moment later it stopped. Then everything fell in silence and so was everyone. They looked down to the bottom with dread in their eyes and inside the water Azra searching down among the shadows and reef with tense. Fishes swimming and rushing with fear, hiding among the reef and stone, and some even break the limit and leap to the open air.

With wonder still on her, Eorin took that fish and return it to the water. “What kind of monster inside that Sphere?”

“Barracuda, big and ancient one, don’t know where they found it.”

“The serpent fish?! He could be killed there. And you’ll get problem with that.”

“I know it. But you know how stubborn these Volk are, often had danger and wild as their game.” said Velkan. “Besides we have frost bomb in case something bad happened.”

The aquarium looks empty now and silent, leaving them in motionless blue. But somehow they felt some danger inside the water, like there’s a monster slithering beneath. Suddenly he caught a glimpse of shadow beneath, very fast and big enough that the bottom clouded with billowing sands. He looked down to the bottom, searching there and there but he can’t found it but flash motion of it. And suddenly something crossed before his eyes like huge silver shaft piercing the water at great speed. It was huge fish and long, like a snake in appearance and pointed head like an arrow with large jaws filled with sharp teeth. Then it hovering under the surface, waiting in stillness before the man, not for prey, rather it was like he found an enemy to fight for dominance.

Suddenly the monster attacked him in fast pounce. Azra managed to avoid it but his arm sliced by the sharp teeth of the monster. Everyone yelling and ooh, but Azra still looks calm inside though from his arm a red hue faded into the blue. Again the monster pounce down with great jaws opened, strongly and fast it down like huge arrow crashed to the bottom and with that the sands rose like smoke.

Everyone waiting in silence and tense looked at the bottom of the water. And as the sands down he saw to his surprise that seemed to him like a legendary sea creature holds the barracuda at the jaws. Naga it was, a humanoid serpentine from the realm of dark abyss where it slumbered since the world still ancient. The head was like dragon of the deepest sea with two fins grew on the sideburns like ears, and dorsal fin stretched from head to tail. It look gallant as the guardian of the sea, the body was thickly built with humanoid torso merging into serpent tail, and had scale as solid as an armor. A horn grew on the shoulder and serrated fin stretched on his arm like a razor. The Naga grab the jaws of the barracuda and with great strength he slammed it to the reef.

The surface before them look calm and still, only soft vibration on the water like there’s wind whistling on it but inside it a rogue fight happened between two creatures. The reef broken and ruined, sometimes they broke the water wall and flushed the floor. And now with the sands rose and clouded the bottom they could only see both tails swaying wildly like they’re trying to kill each other.

“All right guys, the show ends here. You only made the aquarium dirty.” said a guy. His face was cute – a bit frail-looking, but his posture was athletic with wavy dark hair. A bow and arrow were in his hands.

“Come on Freeya! It’s just a game.”

“Azra must ready on the field in minutes and I don’t want him get bite by some fish.”

The tip of arrow glowing blue as his finger touched it. Then he aimed it to the bottom of the water where two monsters fought fiercely among sands and bubbles. So focused he was till his brown eyes look glare, no sounds or words could affected him either boo or spare.

“Did Azra get the red card in the last game? He’s not allowed on the field right now.” said someone, trying to persuade him.

“Then it doesn’t matter if I shoot him right?” said Freeya.

He releases his arrow and like a shooting star it sparkling inside the gloomy blue and very fast inside the water as if it could pierce it. Into billowing sands it goes through and vanished, and suddenly there’s a blast of arc among the sands like a lightning inside the cloud.

Everything fell silent for a moment. They gazed anxiously to the bottom, searching between sands and reefs. And after the aquarium wasn’t clouded by sand anymore they turned curious, for nothing there, neither Azra nor that big barracuda. All eyes searching into the aquarium but still they found nothing but destroyed coral reef. Someone even plunge his head into the aquarium to seek where they are, but only little fish swimming there.

All of sudden the water wall beside Rey broken and leap out of it a young guy. He landed and bent down, and then like a hero or knight slew the dragon he rose in triumph. Proudly he walked over to Eorin and then with manner he gently took her hand to kiss it.

“A gift for my precious.” said Azra. Then he walked away without even glance, only gives his back to say good bye.

“Seems he like you.”

“Then he should try harder than fish fighting and hand kissing to get me flattered. Not to mention I’m feel odd when he called me ‘my precious’.” said Eorin as she saw something given by Azra. It was Sphere with that barracuda sealed inside.

“Well at least he gave precious gift for you. That Barracuda Sphere will grant you water breathing and fast diving ability, and best one.”

“Yeah but I am a Magi, this kind of Sphere wouldn’t much useful for me,” said Eorin “Here, for you.” She handed the Sphere to Rey.

“Really? You give it to me?”

“Yeah, I thought you’ll need it than me.”

“Well, thank you then.” said Rey looked at the Sphere with great excitement.

“Is he really Aska’s cousin?” asked Velkan.

“I’ve told you. Too polite isn’t he.”

Azra get back to the crowd and welcomed like a hero, everyone took his shoulder and give him applause. And he danced like a rapper in front of Freeya to tease how worse his shot, no anger or upset seen on his face, only joy and fun.

“I don’t know what you guys have on your mind.”

“At least I don’t need to worry about another fight to happen.” said Velkan, then he looked at ruined coral reef and wet floor. “But someone has to restore this mess.”

“It must be hard to be a prefect.”

“Not hard enough but sometimes you have to become despicable one which now I have to.”

“Good luck then.”

They parted. Velkan go to the crowd while Eorin brought Rey to Aska’s room. When the door opened he found the room was quite messy. On the corner they found many strange objects from old vase, wooden sculpture, strange spiral-shaped horn, cat’s claws and talon at size of their arm. At the top of the shelf there were chunks of crystal including some strange flower inside glass tube. And above them there’s a little fossil of four winged dragon hanging on the ceiling.

He walked slowly to the desk watched carefully at the aquarium that was like a crystal ball. And to his amazement he found that the spherical aquarium was formed with no glass. It was water orb, formed by pure water and two fishes swimming inside among short algae. He also saw few crystal balls, arranged and connected by black shaft like atomic model. Sphere it might be from the shape and size, but it had orange hue and nothing was sealed inside. A big thick book was next to it but it was locked. Rey wondered what kind of book is it, someone easy like him wouldn’t have a diary and it couldn’t be a book of spell, he even doubted that it contain a knowledge, for most of the books were scattered on the floor or just pile up like never touched.

The wall papered by many posters. He saw posters of athletes in different costumes, running and carried an oval ball in their pose completed with their autograph. Beside the sport players, he also saw posters of a group of young girls wore a uniform, a girl band maybe they were and their number was many, he couldn’t even count how many of them in that poster. LCE88 was their name, at least that what’s read in his mind about the strange lettering on the poster. Sometimes he wondered about himself, how he could understand their speech and recognized their words.

“Don’t ask me where he picked up this junk.” said Eorin, feeling of disgust implied in her blue eyes about the room especially when he saw the poster of girl band on the wall. On the contrary Rey was impressed and interested with many strange things he saw on that room.

“Now be honest, what kind of bond you have with him? Partner in crime or just link to the highest bidder?” asked Eorin.

“I’m a family.”

“Do you think I bought for it, you’re not even a Volk.”

“How do you conclude that?”

“You’re too polite and innocent for Volk tribe, still too polite even if you’re a plain-blood one.” said Eorin 

“I will be honest with you, but this is long story and it may sounds little crazy too you.” said Rey.

“I often had crazy moment with him but if it’s a long story, I can’t right now. It is a men’s dorm and I could not linger little longer here.” said Eorin “But promise me that you will tell the truth to me, agree?!”

“Agree!” said Rey.

“Then better I go now. Take care of yourself.” said Eorin.

“Good bye then, and thanks for your help.”

“See, this is why I don’t believe if you’re Volk.” said Eorin smiling.

***

“Seemed you found a new friend in the woods, who is he?”

“My cousin, from my father line, he got travel here but somehow lost in the forest.” said Aska “You don’t know how many times I told him to get a map.”

“I could translate the speech of deceit of every politician in Ishtar. Why do you think you had more advanced in words than them?”

“Ok, you win, he’s not my cousin. He was step son of my mother’s step sister who have husband whom left her for a fat singer in La Plagia Concerta in Vitsenza.”

Headmaster gave strange expression toward him with eyes waiting an answer from the boy before him.

“Alright … alright …, I just found him in Zimeth lair yesterday. I don’t even know much about him. This boy was odd, I mean age and posture he was like me but he knew nothing about everything or even less than that, he had no clue where he lives. He was … like newborn baby.”

“Maybe he just got amnesia.”

“At first I thought so. But he told me about his place clearly, sounds strange but on the other side everything I told to him seemed sounds alien on his ears, he doesn’t even knew what’s the Sphere was.” said Aska. “It’s like the world he knew were different with the world we knew.”

“Really, that’s very strange.”

“Then what will you do about him? Don’t tell me that you will throw him out of the gate.”

“Of course not, but on the other side he was outsider here.” said Headmaster. “Let’s take a walk. We discuss him on the way.”

***

“Hey, Aska!” shouted a young man behind the door, but to his surprise he didn’t found Aska in that room instead he found someone unfamiliar.

“Who are you? Where Aska?” asked that oval-faced boys, his dark eyes watching Rey carefully. However before Rey had time to answer, someone other came into that room. His face was a little similar to the young man who asked him, except his haircut made his forehead wider. They’re brothers, seemingly.

“Hey, where’s that birdhead?”

“Aska? Well, he’s on the headmaster office.”

“Headmaster office? For what?”

“I don’t know. I just heard he goes there.”

“Great, now we really had player crisis.”

“What’s going on? Where Aska?” asked Freeya suddenly came over to them both.

“That birdhead make trouble again till top notch of this Grove called him.”

“With Azra suspended and Galford go to his hometown, we have no more players left.” Freeya then noticed Rey, and then something crossed on his mind once he saw the boy in front of him. “Why don’t we take him? We just need to complete our minimum number anyway. He can just stand there in the middle of the field and try not to get hurt.”

“Hmm, I don’t know.” said one of them in doubt.

“Are you a new student?”

“I’m Rey, Aska’s … cousin.” said Rey with a bit doubt.

“Another Volk! That’s great, far more great.” said Freeya look excited. “Ok, pack him boys!” shouted Freeya. 

Those two brothers had their arm around his shoulder and dragged him out from the room with force and smirk, wonder where they’ll take him or what they’ll do to him.

“H-hey, where we going?” asked Rey.

“Relax buddy, just come with us!”

“And we will have some fun.”

Chapter 7

By Sweat and Magic

Rey’s mind wandered everywhere as he stepped in that place. Moment ago these boys around him took him away by force and now he found himself in the dimness, nothing he could see but light at the end – wonder what’s waiting him there. Is this some kind of initiation for new kids? Ah it couldn’t be, in the dim light he saw their faces and their expression. All of them look happy and excited, little fears and bit of worry. Full enthusiasm they were but no one has sly face like the senior who try to bully the juniors.

Along the way down four of them dressed in hurry, blue-yellow colored costume they wore with name and number printed on the back. Rey doesn’t know whose costume he wore but it oversized for his body. And not only costume but they also wore a gauntlet with Spheres attached on it. The crystal orbs were glimmering in the dimness and show many creatures inside, strange it was but amazing in his eyes. They’re still and frozen inside just like an ornament of crystal ball but he senses the power and magic in them. One of them prepared his magic – a snap of his finger and a little flame lit up on the thumb.

Freeya stepped forward. “Are you ready guys?!”

“Yeah!!!”

“Who will win this game?!”

“We will!!!”

“Who will win this game and get the girl?”

“We will!!!”

“Who will win this game and dress like girl?”

“We will.” said two among them and all laughing.

“Get you two.” Freeya laughed “Now let’s beat them boys!”

They ran into the light, very spirited they were like soldier went into battlefield. As they drew closer the more they heard the sound of roar, boisterous like hundreds of enemies awaiting them with the sounds of trumpet deafening to their ears.

Then they came out of the dark tunnel and found themselves on an open field, wide and green with white line painted on the field and red line which bordered the darker grass at the edge. On both edge of the field stood a huge and towering ornament, the shape was like a leafless tree, branched six which each of it had a ring at the tip, and one smaller ring was at the top.

Rey looked forward and there was a huge scoreboard over the seating, the score wasn’t pretty much interesting for him now, but more to his attention was the name of the teams. Zephyr Wind was reads on it under the banner of blue-yellow, the color of his team, against Etherion Blast. Red-black was the color of opponents costume and they are more in number, eleven men stand on the field with five other watching from preserve bench while his team were all on the field and less two than opponent had. And seemed they more prepared than those who just change their costume few minutes ago till brought amateur like him to complete their team.

He was shrinking on the field. Stadium isn’t the place where he set his foot over the grass with hundreds or thousands eyes watched him. Not to mention what kind of game that played on this field with all those magic.

“Ok Rey, you replaced that birdhead as a Runner. Be flash and get them crash!”

“Umm, I don’t understand about this game.”

Freeya was surprised by his answer. Then he stared him with wonder, “Did you ever play Sneakers?”

“Actually no, I’ve just heard it once from Aska when he gave me free tour in the train.”

Freeya took a deep breath then he blows it till the tip of his hair fluttering. “This is getting better. First we have outnumbered and now there’s a boy who never heard this game.”

Freeya stood on the white circle in the middle. Then he bent down and touched the grasses. He looked over the field for a moment and suddenly he smiled, “Ah, hell with that! Everyone deserves to play.” said him.

Then he rose and stared at him. “Well, let me give you brief explanation. The aim of this game is to carry the ball pass into the enemy lines, the red line. Do you see it?”

“Yes.”

“Now look at the Tree of Gold?”

“You mean that huge ornament there?”

“You will get touchdown if you made it to darker grass and it scores 1, but that was lesser. Mostly people make more score by throws the ball into the ring. Three for big ring and five for small one at the peak, but remember you must throw it before the red line otherwise it will foul. Do you get it?”

“Just keep the ball and bring it pass the red line or throw it to the ring isn’t it?”

“Good. Now get to your position … well, just get near to us and do like us.” said Freeya.

Later everyone ran and gathered to the middle of the field. Rey follow them behind and looked at his team and their names on the back. Nine persons were in his team, Freeya was seems their captain, he stood in the front center between two guys, one on his right was a tall and blond guy named Light, while one on his left was a good-looking guy named Riff, he have short straight hair, looks neat yet athletic, his posture was like Freeya, but the way he looked at him seems he doesn’t like a new guy like him. Grumb and Gruff was the name of the brothers who dragged him here, and beside them there’s black guy named Apu, he was short but looks very spirited and agile. And in the rear he was accompanied by big guy named Koda and a manly guy with neck-length hair named Yargall, he looks very rough among other – the type who will looks charming by getting dirty on the game. Everyone set to their position, but then he was awkward as everyone looked at him with wonder, either for his stance or his position.

The whistle blows and the game begin. At first he thought that this is just a regular game, fighting for the ball without physical contact, but he was wrong. This game was similar to Rugby, and not only speed and strength needed on this game but also they used magic to tackle and give trouble to opponents.

Light ran brought the ball on his hand, so fast that the opponent couldn’t catch him up. And now no one before him except someone on the other side of the field. Everything seemed perfect as if nothing will intercept him from the score. But suddenly, out of the ground beneath his feet, a green stem growing everywhere, living and caught his feet till he fell down before the red line. Everyone yelled and shouted in rumble, either excited or disappointed, followed by a voice of commentator that filled over the stadium.

The game goes on. Now Etherion team got the ball. They have a good defense to attack, one striker escort by two others to block opponent’s magic. And so he rushed like unstoppable. However, Zephyr team has also good defense in their back. Just before the red line the striker slipped by an ice plate created by gruff, and as he slipping Koda greet him, grabbed him with his big hand. That big guy doesn’t use any magic. All the Spheres he had seemed only to enhance his strength and power, and with that he simply threw the opponent high to the air like throwing a stone.

But behold! From a far, someone looks running, red and black was his costume. Then with one great stomp he leaped high to his friend in the air. But instead of helping, the guy just seized the ball and his floating friend he used as a foothold so he can jump higher. He was skilled and looks confident, precisely he threw the ball into small ring at the top, give him five points on the board and at the same time hundreds of applause from the audience along with ‘boo’ among the crowd.

He landed proudly upon the field and smiled in confidence as he stared to the audience – it was seemed for him like countless voice adore him. He was handsome and had high posture like a champion on commercial. He looks proud and superb, shone among the others. Even Freeya looked at him with full reckoning. But on the other side his fallen friend looking at him with dismay and hate, for using him and treated him like trash.

“Jumping Spider?!” said Freeya.

“I thought so.” replied Riff.

“I never thought someone like Soren would back to basic.”

“Or he used it just to mock us.”

The whistle blows and the game start again. Freeya ran assisted by Light and Apu, but suddenly from their left something flew to them. It was brooch made of silver with the shape of winged-spider but they flew like a living thing. Freeya managed to evade it but two of his teammates don’t. The brooch, as it hit them suddenly turned into big trap with eight silver legs grabbed them tightly. Now Freeya ran alone with two opponents ran into him. He saw no one of his teammates were free but Rey. Quickly he pass the ball to him, right before someone tackled him from behind.

Rey stood on the place, see the ball floating in the air towards him and waiting it with two hands nervously. But suddenly the ground beneath him sunken to half of his body buried, and as the ball bounced on his head someone swiftly took it. With his body half buried, he can just stare forward and unable to move at all. And a moment later he heard everyone yelled. It seemed a score have been made.

“Good work new guy.” said Riff smugly. He didn’t even try to help Rey whom half-buried.

“Don’t mind about him, he always like that.” said Freeya. He gave her hand to help him. But then he felt something strange when he held his wrist. “Hey where’s your Sphere? Don’t you have one?”

“Well, I have none, one actually, but left in the room.”

“Damn, so you’re the plain-blood one.”

“Umm, little help?”

“Oh sorry.” said Freeya pulled him. “How can you play this game without any Sphere?”

“This is my first match?”

“That’s good reason.” said Freeya and he paused for a moment, “Wait a minute I’ll looking some Sphere for you.”

Freeya then asked a short break to referee. For a minute everyone on the field just stood wondering while peoples on the seating murmuring and waiting impatiently. And after a minute Freeya came back to him and brought something in his hand.

“Here, use this!” said Freeya as he handed a gauntlet to Rey. On it has attached three Spheres. The creature sealed inside was looks very unique, never he seen them before. There was something like Armadillo with back coated by metal, smooth shape and shiny surface but seemed very hard and solid like it was armor. On other Sphere there was something like spider sealed inside. Among other that spider was common in his eyes though he felt weird when looked at it. And on the last Sphere he saw something like goblin sealed inside, looks very clumsy, wide ears and sly grin, and on his hand he hold a carved pumpkin like Jack O’ Lantern. It made him creep just by looking at it though the creature inside wasn’t moving at all.

“That little one with shiny armor was called Armatridon. It will protect you on the field as good as its shell.”

“So it will make me invincible.”

“Not like that. You can still get hurt but this Sphere will reduce the pain caused by physical attack from the opponent. Just say one jab from Koda on your head and you will only have cramp in the neck.” explained Freeya.

“That’s very relieving.” said Rey holding his neck and gulped, “And this spider?”

“Jumping Spider, you could jump high with this.”

“How high?” asked Rey.

“You’ve seen it already. Soren used this moment ago, measure that.” answered Freeya.

“Looks great, but why don’t you used it, jump high like him and make score with this?”

“It’s great and very useful in this game, no doubt on it. But mostly peoples couldn’t control their jump. Used this more like you’re cast off by giant catapult rather than real jumping, instead of get the score you will get into scoreboard.”

“But seemed Soren could control it.”

“I doubt it. After he made a score with it did you ever seen him do that again?” Rey confirmed what Freeya said. Though he doesn’t pay attention to Soren among those who were on the field but he didn’t see anyone jumping high after Soren made a score. “Soren used his floating friend as a footstep for himself. That way he removed the force of the high jump and turned it into normal and controllable jump then he made score with that.”

“I see.”

“Just be careful when using this. To attack it was very impossible that’s why we only used it to avoid the opponent.” said Freeya. “See that tall blond man, he is Thorn. He was good at wood elemental, both as Magi and Alchemist. His ability to grow plant beneath our feet made him the best defender on this field. If you’re not fast enough or nimble like Apu you’ll easily ensnare by his trap. So if you feel something on your feet or even already caught one foot, just jump high with this.”

“I understand.” replied Rey, “Then how about this one?”

“This is a Gremlin, my favorite. But you have to be careful when wearing this one Sphere.”

“Why?”

“Gremlin was the spirit of destruction. It gives us ability to store our energy into an object till it glows.”

“Like a lantern.”

“Yes, but that’s not the real part. The real part is when the object hit something or shaken, it will blast.”

His eyes widen in shock. “What?! Can you get this off?! It’s dangerous.”

“Don’t take it seriously, it only do a little blast, much like firecracker or fireworks, well maybe more if you madly store all your energy. But don’t worry the game has safety standard, the grass on the field designed to absorb energy and magic. So no matter how great your magic is it will become less destructive.” said Freeya “Also you have to remember the grass will makes the magic has a time limit, about 15-20 seconds, after that, nothing will left from our magic. That’s why Gruff’s ice melted and Thorn’s tendril withered after few seconds. Among the three Spheres I gave to you looks like the Gremlin was the only one will affected by time limit. The object you touch will become fireworks for 20 seconds, after that it will be normal again.”

“Still you have to careful with this.” said Freeya. “Last season we have a kid who used this and accidentally stores all his energy to everything he wore. And when we tried to bring him to medical room he slipped down and … bam.” said Freeya exaggeratedly.

“Are you real?”

“Relax. Not as bad as it sounds. The kid I told you about, he was fine and now he became a successful motivator.”

“Wooow.”

“Actually not that wow, I made up the last part. The important thing is he was fine, though he was hospitalized for a month after the incident.” said Freeya casually, “Just focus on Armatridon and Spider, they’re very useful on the field.”

“Okay I’ll try.” said Rey look hesitated.

Freeya slapped Rey. “No doubt, be confident. Do you understand?!”

“I understand.” replied Rey.

“I didn’t hear you.”

“I got it!” exclaimed him.

“Good. That’s the spirit.”

Freeya then slapped him once again.

“What’s that for?”

“I don’t know. It just feels right.” answered Freeya. “Come on! We have a game to win.”

They both ran together and immediately get into their position. The whistle blows again. Apu get the first ball and he passed to Riff. He was great and strong in the field, and like a messenger of old he ran and kept the ball with his life. Break through all opponents before him and deflected their magic, and burn every trap on his path. Then strongly he throws the ball towards the ring, however, just when the ball about to score a flash of green flame shoots the ball and repelled it away to the center of the field. And without expected the ball fall into Rey, he jumped and caught it. A second he stood undecided either passed it to his teammates or ran with it, and when he tried to run, someone tackled him and seized the ball. He was Soren, no guard was about him and he swiftly ran forward to make score. However there’s something weird about him. Rey like caught a glimpse of light in him, and suddenly he was thrown away as if there’s some energy blast him.

People rose from their seat and to the field their eyes pointed. Even little kids doesn’t want to miss something, they jump or hold on adult’s shoulder only to see what happened. The game paused for a moment. Those on the field looked at Soren and wondered what has happened to him, but then their eyes looked in wonder to the new kids who still lied after being tackled, some even freaked on him.

“Are you all right?” asked the referee.

“I’m okay.” said Soren. He was still shocked and walked with a limp. Then he turned and looked at Rey with grudge but wondered.

On the other side Freeya helped Rey to stand. “Did you use the Gremlin and blow up the ball?” asked Freeya stared keenly at him.

“Y-yes, maybe.” said Rey with doubt.

“Good job. That’s what I called game.” Freeya laughed.

***

Aska and Headmaster walked down on the corridor. On their left there were large glass windows which show the green field of the Grove Stadium. The game has paused for now, at least that was on their glance. Also they heard no yells or shouts of excitement from the crowd, only a buzz of their voices. Looking at the field Aska just remembered that he had to play today but the top-notch of the Grove had invited him to speak, put him aside would be worse than treated one table for all team for his absence in this game.

“Did you really want him to be a student here?”

“That’s the best thing we can do for now and while he stays here he’s yours to finance.”

“What? Are you kidding?”

“Of course I am, you should look at your faces.” said Headmaster laughed. “I’ll take care of that while he here and your job was to take care of him. And I thought it was fine if you take him a walk and maybe helping you find something worth of florin.”

“No problem. I could do something free of charge like that.”

Headmaster then looked out of the window. At the moment the game has paused, few peoples between two teams gathered on the field and argued each other with Rey among them. “Wow, that’s really a heck of alien spacesuit. Is that him?”

“For the mother elephant! It’s him.”

Aska tried to ran but headmaster grasping his collar first. Suddenly everything flashed as if the view before his eyes glitching and in a sudden white floor corridor turned into stretching green field where both teams still argued each other. Aska now found himself on the seating with headmaster beside him. Some peoples looked at them both and someone offered a snack to headmaster.

“Seem your friend had done something very extreme and unexpected. How did he could get there anyway?”

“I don’t know. How should I know?”

“You’re on the team right? Why you weren’t on the field right now?” said Headmaster innocently.

“Yeah wonder why?” said Aska with his eyes pointed to headmaster.

***

The sun rode to the west and sinking at the roof of the stadium. The shadow of the western edge of the stadium grew long and shaded half of the field with afternoon breeze blew fresh. But the field seemed got heat up as the tense between two teams rising. Etherion team stated that what had been done by Rey by blasting a ball was violation and he must be sent off. On the other side Freeya and his fellow teammates defend him, argue that there’s no rule that prohibit anyone to use Gremlin to blast off the ball. Grump and Light almost get a fight with three people from Etherion team if only Koda wasn’t halted them. That big guy may looks like a stupid but he was wise enough to know what’s appropriate and not on the field, though his wisdom wasn’t last long because at the end he punched one of them with his big hand.

The fight settled immediately as the whistle blows long. The referee was mad and threatened to send off all of them if they don’t get back to their position in less than a minute. In addition he decided not to give sanction to Rey in exchange he must put off the Gremlin Sphere on his hand and he stated that he will remove whoever blew the ball next time.

The game starts again. All players of both teams cast their magic to the fullest, tackling the opponent and seized the ball, and sometimes they used their magic to shoot the ball in the air to prevent it to get into the ring. On the seating everyone like saw the battle goes rage upon the green field, all flame burst like rocket, a grassy square whirled and turned into yellow sand trap, and they saw one of them had trapped on ice sphere. But even as the game got very though, peoples get entertained by some new kid who madly jumping high on the field as if he was on the huge trampoline.

“Where did you found this kid?” asked Light.

“From that birdhead’s room, he’s interesting isn’t it?”

“More like mad for me.” replied Light.

Suddenly as he is in the air, he caught the ball by luck and failed the opponent to score. Then after 2-3 times sprang high he managed to land in the grass.

“Run!” shouted Freeya to Rey.

He ran immediately with ball in his hand, only few meters between him and the red line. But suddenly someone crashes him from behind. The ball was slipped off his hand and bounce on the ground, and a hand swiftly seized it. It was Soren again, with the ball in his hand he jumped over him and swiftly ran like wind.

Rey tried to get up but his back and waist was like broken or something, and he hardly breathe with that. Without expected, as he got up one of the Sphere in his hand glowing and suddenly, like they were alive, the ground beneath him rose to surround him and then sealing him inside the big orb of dirt.

On the other side of the field Soren almost reached the red line and there’s only Koda left to stop him. For Soren that guy just brainless muscle, a big guy with lack intelligence and only rely on his big hand. A magic he prepared for him but suddenly he saw that big guy gazed in dread, not to him but something behind him, and immediately he get away as if he doesn’t care whether he will makes score or not.

Soren turned around and to his surprise he saw a big ball rolling toward him. He ran swiftly but that thing rolling faster than his pace to at last the big ball got him and leveled him to the ground.

All peoples stood up, cried and shouted. The top scorer of Etherion team now fell with his face to the ground. Meanwhile the big ball kept rolling and rolling endlessly until it hit the wall and broke like vase slammed hard.

Everyone fell in silence and they felt anxious. Hundred of eyes turned to the side, it seems they’re more interested to see who’s inside the big ball and how he is rather than Soren who now trying to get up in pain. Then everyone cheered as they saw Rey rose upon the shards, and they gave applause for him.

“Hahaha, I told you this would be interesting.” said headmaster look excited with the game.

On the contrary Aska feels worry for him and how he was on the field. He knew that boy just got lucky to made this far.

“You’re right that boy was a madness.” said Freeya look amazed.

Rey then stood, confused and very dizzy, and he shakes his head trying to gain his consciousness. Rolling inside the dirt orb was very bad idea – at least that’s what on his mind. He walked with loopy stagger like a drunken chicken and the entire stadium burst out laughing when he loses his balance and fall. Then Koda helped him, grabbed him in the collar and lifted him like lifting a small cat.

***

“Good evening sir!” greeted Eorin to headmaster.

“Good evening Ms. Gardnierre.” replied headmaster.

Eorin then turned to Aska, “Don’t you have to being on the field now? Why you’re just sitting here? You lame duck!” said Eorin scolding him.

“Why don’t you ask this old man? I don’t have duck shape anyway.” said Aska.

“How was the game?”

“It goes well. But set your eyes to our big guy and see who’s on his hand now.”

Eorin then look out for Koda. Far there she saw that big guy stood at the edge of the field holding someone with a hand like hold a small cat and shaking him. From the distance she felt something familiar about the little guy in the big hand and it didn’t take long time for her to realize who he is.

“Is that … Rey? How he got in there?” asked Eorin wondered but at the same time she felt funny when looked them.

“I just wanted to ask you same thing about that? Is it you who last with him?”

“Yeah, but he was in your room when I left him.”

***

Time pressing and the game getting more constrict. Now the Zephyr Team has left seven points to Etherion and their strike just failed as Light trapped by some twisting vines. He trying to escape but the more he tried the more it entrapped him as if it wants to drag him down to the earth. No way he will fell in such cheap trick, and so with the last strength he throw the ball up into the high air and hope one of his teammates got it first.

Thorn smiled when he saw the ball flew high in the air. Then he slammed down a little seed to the ground and with his magic a huge beanstalk suddenly growing up rapidly – just a second and it already had meters of length. Thorn running up over the beanstalk with one hand down like he was commanded it to get him into the ball. Neither fears nor worry to fell looked on him, instead he run into the ball with full confident and spirits.

Suddenly, on the other side of the field, with accidental reflex Koda threw the boy in his hand straight up to the ball which floating in the air. That big guy precisely threw him till he easily caught the ball but Thorn seems never lack any of senses. He jumped down and grabbed the tip of the beanstalk, and pulled it to curve downward. He smirked and released his grip. Strongly the beanstalk swung like a giant whip towards Rey. Yet, at the critical moment, when he looked at it with fear, something strange happened on him. He felt strange sense of numbness on his entire body as though some magic have petrifying him.

“Ooohhh!!!” Everyone shouted and rose as they saw the beanstalk whipped him. Hard enough he was thrown till he bumped on the girl in VIP seat.

However, beyond what have happened, from the ball was shoot high to the air by Light till Rey was whipped by giant beanstalk, no one expected that the ball which slipped off from Rey’s hand will flew into small ring and make scores. Freeya looked up and shouted in joy as he saw five points added on the board for the Zephyr Winds.

Everyone cheered and give them applause. For the first time they see the game that’s very unique and at the same time tickle their very own heart to laugh. However the crowded voice and boisterous cheers wasn’t able to get through his consciousness as Rey began to fainting.

Chapter 8

A Place Called Peace

“He’s awake! Hey birdhead, your cousin awake!” cried Freeya.

Rey awake and found himself in the bed. There, Eorin and Aska sat looking at him. Freeya stood behind them with a girl who had neck-length hair. She looks lovely and friendly, this is the first time they met but the girl cheerfully smiled and waving a hand to him. He also saw Gruff and Grumb standing next to the door and playing on something.

“Are you all right?”

“What happened?”

“You’re thrown to the seats.” replied Aska “You’re okay now?”

“I’m okay, just bit dizzy.” replied him while holding his head “How’s the game?”

“Well, we lose. Even if you still hold there and scoring crazy again we would still lose for sure.” answered Freeya. But he smiled as if this defeat feels sweet for them all. “But I must admit that this is the best match I’ve ever played. You did very well on the field and gave so much fun to everyone so we didn’t looks like a lemon on the grass. We lost but pride and dignity still on ours.”

“Thanks.” said Grumb.

“For what?”

“For give new spirits on this team.” said Gruff.

“And mostly for what you did to Soren.” Grumb added.

“And the best thing is you gave a bruise on Leona’s head.” said the short-haired girl with joy and excitement.

“Leona whom?” asked Rey.

Not yet had his question answered, she immediately hugged him and shook him as though she want to do happy dancing with him. “Let me hug someone who had my revenge.”

Rey was surprised, didn’t know what to do. For the first time he’s being hugged by a girl even Asti – the only girl who closest to him never did that, the most intimate things ever done by Asti to him was just strong clinch on the neck.

Freeya shaking his head and waving his hands, give him a sign to do nothing but abide. Seemed it wasn’t a wise thing if he answered her with disallowance especially he already seen what had been done by Eorin to Aska. Both Spheria and Earth seemed have same thing in common that their men sank their knees before the girls, so he thought.

“Oh I forgot, my name is Flo and you …”

“Rey.”

“Nice to meet you Rey. Where did you come from? What’s your favorite food?” asked Flo.

“I …”

“Is this the first time you ever visit Lucretia? Are you now shared a room with Aska? Tell me what’s your favorite music?” asked Flo blurted.

“That’s …”

“You actually want to ask or interrogate him?” asked Freeya.

“Shut up! It’s not your business. Just go and shoot the bird out there.”

“It’s dark now. All the birds were on their bed.”

“Actually they never had a sleep, they just rest. If you pay attention they never had their eyes shut, always half opened … or it was half closed.” said Gruff.

“You’re wrong, they’re sleep like us.” said Grumb.

“No they’re just shut their eyes down like you always did in calculus class.”

“They’re sleep.”

“No, resting.”

“Sleep.”

“Rest.”

“Don’t mind about them! They both always like this, only on the field they could tag along.” said Flo. “So Rey, do you have a time tomorrow?”

“Well, I…”

In that room they talked and joked as if they had spent many years of togetherness with him, whereas they have just knew him for hours. Flo offered to give him a tour in this Grove, that girl said he would show many interesting places inside Grove, including the secret one that no one know even for the teachers. While Freeya who has always looks casual on both style and manner said that he would put Rey in the team, and spoke very casually when he said that he will throw him to the aquarium with two barracudas inside if he refuse. The brothers invite him to their anti group, the ‘anti-Veranda’ group which currently only consists of two members, three if Rey joined, wonder what had been done by this girl named Veranda to both of them till they create anti-group of her. Later Eorin and Flo were teasing them both.

Somehow he felt like he was being at home, get together and share with the people he loved. He smiles just by looking at their doings and laugh when he seen the shirts which had logo of their anti-group – a beautiful face within circle-backslash printed on their white T-shirts.

“Come on guys! He needs a break now.” said Aska.

“Well, can’t we talk for a while?!” Flo pleaded.

“No, he’s more need voice of tranquil than your shrill.”

“You wait and see!”

“Just go!” said Aska pushing Flo out of the door.

Rey sat on the bed, he felt tired and sore on the entire body which he got from the game. Then he sighed and turned his face to the window. And suddenly he rose to the window with eyes widened as he saw something outside, even with all things he through, from hunted down by three-headed dragon and beasts to a great city that has never been known by any knowledge of him, yet what he saw now beyond his thought about this world. Many times he rubbed his eyes to make sure that it was real, that his eyes weren’t lying to him. And there, among the stars and grey clouds, two moons rise beyond the dusk. The white crescent was familiar with the one he always saw at the moony night of his world, glowing white with a pockmarked surface. However in the darkest side of the crescent there luminous spots which formed hexagonal pattern like a glowing snowflake. Wonder what lied there, but it seemed there’s civilization built on the dead cold surface of the moon, whether it’s still exist or maybe have ruined. But most to his amazement was the crimson moon hanging above the crescent. It was twice larger and contrast to the white one which had pockmarked surface the crimson moon’s surface filled with abstract line as though there was some great celestial being scratched it all over the surface. The moon was full now, glowing red like a ruby but the hue of blood seemed doesn’t came from the last light of sunset, for it was far above the horizon.

“Where I am actually?” said Rey faintly. He fixed to the moons as if enchanted by them.

“Peace.” answered Aska.

“What?”

“My father told me when you feel at peace in some place then the place called ‘peace’, when you feel in love with a woman then the place is called ‘love’ and when you are with peoples you love then that place is called …”

“Home”

That spiky haired boy then lay down in his bed, staring at the tiny cobwebs in the ceiling while turned the key on the ship toys. Suddenly that little ship flying above as it release from his hand, hovering slowly under the white roof and it looks like going to a battle with the skeletal dragon hanging above.

“Is it good?”

“What?”

“Your home, your world, is it a good place? Tell me!” said Aska

“I only live with my grandfather. He was nice and friendly always keep a good relation with the neighbor and everybody else. We’re not wealthy people but we also never had problems with financial things. Well I could say that we never had some monotony rigid come into our house with any kind letter of debt.”

“Wow, your world must be wonderful.”

“It might be.”

“How about your parents? Do you have a brother or sister?”

“They’re somewhere far away from me.”

“You mean they work in another country?”

“No, they’re gone, forever. An accident took them both along with my little sister.” said Rey, his voice sounds fainted when talked about those he loved.

“I’m sorry, I don’t know about that.”

“No need to, at that time I was just a little kid. I don’t even know how sad it was for left by them. The only regret was that I never knew about them except faint memories.” said Rey, as he trying to cover the sadness on his eyes with smile. “But I’m very thankful that my grandfather was always there for me, beside Asti always take care of me and protect me.”

“Asti? That name sounds like a girl, yours?” asked Aska.

“She’s best friend of mine, like you and Eorin.”

“And who’s the boss?”

“She was.”

“As I thought.”

“How about Eorin?” asked Rey.

“Eorin comes from Namasse, a little town bordering to both Nirithrea and Azgalor in the northwest. She was the only daughter of Gardinierre, a middle-class family who runs on flower business, rich enough and quite respectable in the town from I heard. But I’ve never been to her house or met her family.” said Aska.

“How’s that happened? I thought both of you are best friend.”

“Indeed, but Eorin told me not to visit her home and that including Flo and the others. Moreover she never returned home since she set foot in the Grove.”

“She never went home?” said Rey look surprised.

“Yes, since the first time she came here I never saw her return home to Namasse. Whether it was holiday or day off she always chose to stay in Lucretia or help me find something in the Grimwood or elsewhere except her home.” said Aska “Strange isn’t it?”

“Yes.”

“But I think it was made sense.”

“What’s make sense?”

“Well, her father runs a flower business and that kind of goods have market only in the big cities such Lucretia, Namtar, Tajar and another. Her father must be very busy enough till he back home just once a year and get together with her in just a week.” said Aska. “But that’s not the worst part of the story.”

“Is it?”

“Yeah, the worst part of the stories is when her father gone, the one who left on her home was her stepmother along with those two stepsisters.”

“Wait a minute, how do you know her stepmother and stepsisters? You said that you never visit her home or met her family.”

“Oh hell no, I didn’t even know if she had stepmother or not but it’s always like that in opera soap.”

Rey winced when heard it.

“Her stepmother maybe had cruel face and sinister smile, and she want to kill hundred Dalmatians to her fashion.” said Aska.

“Wow, somehow that face familiar for me.” said Rey.

“And her stepsisters, beautiful and glamorous but wicked in their heart, always had man’s face under their heels.” said Aska. “Maybe they want to take over Eorin’s money and always planning something evil to Eorin and her father. Maybe that’s the reason why Eorin was never come home and prefer to stay here, I’m sure of it.”

Aska got dragged further into his own prejudices. Now his mind filled with the scene of the soap opera and he clenched two of his fist as in rage.

“I didn’t think Eorin was some short of girl who ran away because there’s problem with home or her family.” interrupted him while he thought about Asti, spent a life with her made him at least knew about runaway girl and that’s something he didn’t found in Eorin. “Maybe she had her own reasons to stay here, maybe she’s just bored with her home and seek a new one.”

“For years, doesn’t she miss to her family?”

“Maybe she had remedy for her yearning. You yourself must have some way aren’t you? To remembered your beloved one and heal your miss to them.”

“The Volk Tribe always watched the moon to remind them of home. We believe the moon connect us through our eyes. We believe that when we look at the moon, the peoples we loved also see it and that way we felt that they’re beside us.”

“But I don’t think me and them watching the same moon now.” said Rey, as he stared at the moons and somehow he felt so far away from his home.

“Don’t worry about that, I’m sure you’ll find a way return to your home. Just enjoy it while you’re here.” said Aska. “Now get sleep, tomorrow is your first day.”

“First day?” said Rey wondered. “Hey Aska, what do you mean ‘first day’?”

Aska simply answered with snores. He had fall asleep already. Rey then lay down on the bed, staring at four-winged skeleton hanging in the ceiling. One question comes into his mind, ‘can I go back home?’

***

At the same time while Rey could pass the night without worry, somewhere in the far west of Ishtar, the peaceful night was bothered by the assault of the Phantom. They were black as the darkness of the night and only those creepy yellow eyes were looked on them. Like a living dead they had stooped posture but their eyes straight to their prey. A burst of green light came out of their palm and streaking everywhere like silent fireworks in the darkness. All of them fell instantly by the green light but seemed it didn’t brought the death with it, for everyone whom fall still have white breath blew in this cold night.

And they weren’t alone on the assault. Among the chaos there were small figure wandering and collecting the fainted villagers. Raider they were called in common, for the wicked thing they have done for live. Like a scavengers they’re live from the dead, a group of greedy grave robber and loot whatever left from battle. Their bodies were smaller than normal human, about three-quarter of a man and only few strands of hair left on their chapped head skin. But what became of their trademark was the length of their arm, almost twice longer than normal human and equipped with steel claws, sharp but rusted, served as a tool for grave digger or weapon for those wretched kin to kill. They were armored just with chest plate, simple and light, fit for their small bodies but agile, and on the armor there’s painting of a dry blood. Red stained veils covered their faces. It’s said that the veil was came from the cloth of fallen soldier who died on the battlefield. Raiders believed that blood-stained cloth were the cloak of The Death, they believed tore and wore it would grant them privileges to take and grab whatever belonged to the dead. But this time those who usually collect the goods of the dead now carried living human. They carried everyone which had taken down by the Phantom into some gate. It was shaped like a mouth of big snake and gape widely as if could swallowed a small house.

One of Raider couldn’t deny his nature. Among the chaos a little thing has seduced him. It was a ring, on the finger of a lady, the light surround reflected on the diamond. The Raider slowly crawling on all fours with eyes flashes in the dimness. He looked left and right, and then roughly grabbed the ring as if he doesn’t hesitate to break the finger.

Suddenly an unbearable pain strike inside his head like some force crushing his skull. The raider was twisting in the ground and screamed in pain. But no one cared about him even other Raiders just glanced and then continue to sweep fainted villagers.

“I did not summon you for a cheap jewelry!” said a mysterious man who walked out from the shadow of the woods. His face was covered by the shadows of the hood he wore, and the light was very rare around him to his eyes weren’t gleamed. He wore a dark-red robe and seems luxurious, noble he might be or someone who possess great wealth. Two peoples stood next to him. One carrying a scepter in his hand and the other one had a sword at his waist.

Once he lowered his hand the Raider stop screaming, the pain in his head was gone instantly. He lied down, breathing hardly with slobbering mouth. Then he crawling with a limp and bowed a head as if seek forgiveness from that mysterious man.

“Why you called this wretched beings My Lord. We could use our men and airship to take all of them.”

“Airship was too subtle. Better if we use their Serpent Canal, simple and untraceable.”

“But it seemed our little project had been noticed. The Shell has set his eyes here and I heard this incident will be a discussion on the Lodge tomorrow.”

“Thousand peoples have disappeared within a month in our need. I’ve never thought that we could hide this in a long time.” said the mysterious man. “However I heard there’s a rumor about silver-haired man wandering around Lucretia, I believe Sahagin will focus on him for a moment and give us a little time to finish our test. And for The Lodge I don’t really worry about them. There’s only politics and florin there. A new crystallite mines in Nerut worth of billions florin would be more on their interest than thousand of missing people here.”

“How about cover up? We couldn’t get away so easily after this. They will hunt us down, Ishtar, the Shell, anyone in this land.”

“Do you afraid?”

“We’ve been hunted down for years by our government. One more nation put a bounty on our head wouldn’t makes any difference. But our purpose was grand and we’re just at the beginning, too soon to make Ishtar and Shell set their eyes on us.”

“I’ve already had a plan to cover up but for this I need you to send some message so they will act to our scheme.” said the mysterious man to the one who wield the sword.

“To whom I must send this?”

“You know him well, for you have met him several times in Silent War.” said mysterious man to the one who wield the sword. “Sahagin already called him and he will be here soon. Try to not get killed, for he’s stronger than the last day you met.”

Suddenly a bolt of flame interrupted them. They turned to the attacker immediately, a young man he was and keenly he stared at them with blazing flame in his hand ready to attack. And not only him, behind him they saw some peoples fought against the Phantoms, even few of them only using shovel and fork to fight.

“Do you want me to take care of them?!” said the man with the sword.

“Hold your lightning! Let those Gargantua take care of them.”

The villagers fought bravely and among them there’s a guy who had his hand covered by rocks like it was a glove. He was pretty tough, many of the Phantoms and Raider fell on his stone fist but none of them wounded him even a little. Stained claws of Raiders couldn’t scratch his imperishable glove neither sleep magic have effect against rock.

A stronger punch hit one of the Phantoms till the Phantom down with helmet off into shadowy grass. The guy then walked toward him with stone fist clenched in wrath. He wants to see the one who dare to attack his village and crush their face with his stone. But suddenly he halted in surprise as he saw the true face of the enemies. He gazed at them in silence and wonder, rage in his eyes turned into confusion till the rock on his hand fall apart. From those all he hated to be behind the black helmet none of them become of whom he saw now.

Suddenly the ground trembling and the forest breaking, sleeping flock flying with fear as the sound of cracking forest draw near. For a moment everything fell in silence and fear. Then as if born by the shadows of the forests, suddenly two abominable giants break through the woods and screamed to the night. Fearsome and tall they were, about 3-4 times taller than a man. Their skin was pale, darkened and rotten flesh looked from their open wounds. They wore mask made by dragon skin with the dorsal fin stretched from their nose to neck. Nothing could be seen on their faces but sharp nasty teeth on their lipless mouth and one creepy lidless eye stared to them from the eye hole. They held different weapon, one with the right eye wield a huge axe while the one which stared at the villagers with his left wield a spiked mace.

Both Gargantua brutally kills the villagers who tried to fight back. Those who had fought gallantly now become helpless in the presence of the giants. None of their weapons and magic could hurt them, swords seemed dull, spears and arrows nothing more than just needle for their huge body, and fireballs like a little spark against their thick skin.

One by one all of them fell under the hands of giants. And those who tried to escape had no better fate, either killed by the steel claws of Raider or down by magic of men. Just less than a minute they have silenced all the resistance they’ve got.

Soon as they have swept all the villagers they drew themselves. The mysterious man and his aide vanished within the shadows of the forest and so was the giant while the Raiders went through the Serpent Canal into somewhere unknown. Before leaves, the last Raider halted and stood under the fangs of stone. He looked behind and saw nothing but destruction and death.

Chapter 9

The Legendary Sword of Tyvelon

 

At the morning they came into headmaster office, as been summoned by headmaster himself. However they found the room was empty now. No one was there but them, though a classical music was plays there to accompany the morning. Few minutes they have waited but no sign of the headmaster will come. Rey walked and looked around. Many things look common for him though he felt a bit odd about it. “Sentient and Magic”, “The Seven Ancients: The Legendary Beast of Spheria”, “Reign of Astarte: the Beginning of History”, “and many of the book on shelf have uncommon titles. Some painting depicted a beast and nature that unrecognized by him and many strange objects he never seen before.

On the other side Aska rummages through the cupboard and then he took a jar of biscuit out of it. “Well, it’s better than nothing.” And as he ate something has caught his attention and without doubt he took it. “Hey look at this!”

“What’s that?” asked Rey, looked at it with wonder. It was an egg but the contour was like turtle shell.

“It’s Pandora Egg. I used to play with this when I was kid but now it’s rarely seen.”

“What is that for?”

“Just toy, break it and you’ll found random pet, bullcat, ring-tailed rabbit, flying fish something like that.” said Aska. “Let’s see what’s inside.” Aska raise his hand, ready to break the egg.

“Hey …” Rey tried to stop it but he’s late, Aska had tapping the egg to crack.

“What?”

The egg was broken and dropped from it was a little creature, dark and winged, but looks very spoiled and harmless like a little baby.

“Oh, look it’s a bat.” said Aska.

The little bat then grew bigger and bigger, very rapid it grew that only need few seconds for it to the size of a dog then at last it rose like a demon with dark wings stretched. The head was like a bat with the form of grotesque and it stands proud before them, gazing at them with eyes blazing red and the cupboard the monster tore it with a scratch of its sharp claws.

“Ok, it’s bad.” said Aska.

The monster leaped and chasing them both, it tore and destroys everything on the way to catch them till they cornered on the windows.

“Do something! You can turn into that big wolf right?!”

“Do you think I brought my Sphere here?” said Aska “Good bat, good bat.”

The monster walked over to them but suddenly the dark skin of the monster burnt to vapor when it exposed by sunlight. Looked at that both of them was very happy and relieved, Aska even taunted him under the sunlight and the monster just groaned showing its fangs.

Then from the door the headmaster came in with watering pot in his hand. He was surprised to find his office was messed up with a winged monster there gazed at two boys near the windows.

“Ok, who’s messed up my office? You or you?” asked headmaster.

“He did!” They both agreed to point their finger to the monster.

The monster turned to headmaster and soon it ran to attack him. Calmly the headmaster cast something on it and the monster disappeared like some black mist devoured it into the void.

“I’m sorry for make you waiting.” said headmaster while put the watering pot.

“No problem.”

“Between you two, who’s released that Gargoyle from the egg?”

“I thought it was just hamster inside.” said Aska innocently. “Sorry.”

“Well, since my office has been ruined I couldn’t offer a proper hospitality to you. So shall we get to the point why I called you?!” said Headmaster while he sat on the floor. “Please sit … wherever comfort you.”

“Is this about my detention?” asked Aska.

“Not about that actually but since you mention it we will discuss it right now.”

“Can we discuss it for another time?”

“No we are not, that’s what you got if talked something unnecessary but I will make it brief and concise.” said headmaster. “Head of Counseling and Administration had asked permission to off the duty for few days. So right now, no one in charge to take care of your detention.”

“I’m feel sorry sir. I wish now I’m locked in the tower or mopping entire Grove so I can get off this burden of guilt sir.” said Aska act innocent.

“Then this is your lucky day. Department of Sanitation needs one man to help them find some monster inside the sewer.”

“What?! That’s dangerous? I could be dead down there.”

“You could escape from three-headed dragon out there and passed Grimwood alive. How something in the sewer will put you on more danger?” said headmaster.

“All right, all right, I’ll go there after my class over. Besides if I could catch the Kloagator down there I will have the money I needed.”

Headmaster then turned to Rey.

“He had told me everything about you and honestly many things were unbelievable for me though he would unlikely lie for no reason.” Headmaster then took something from the remains. It was a thick book with Ishtar Grove as the cover, few papers was tucked inside.

“It will be strange if someone at your age wandering here without attend any class. So I’ve been thought, while you’re here and find a way back to home better if you become a student here.”

“Is that alright?” asked Rey.

“You have nothing to worry about. I’ve already take care of everything. The papers in the book was the list of the classes that you should attend, you can start today. Aska will help you.”

Headmaster then handed a Sphere with something like a little hamster sealed inside.

“Don’t be fooled with this little creature, their ability was to create energy shield to protect us. I couldn’t even count how many times I owe my life to them.” said headmaster. “Now I hope they guard you now.”

“Thank you.”

“Actually I have many things to ask but now I’m busy taking care of everything, always difficult to find your schedule empty in the end of season. Maybe after the final exam has over we could have a coffee together and share about our world.”

“Sure. That will be interesting.” Rey agreed.

“What about me?” Aska holds out his hand hope for some gift like Rey.

“What about what?”

“No gift for me?”

“Oh, I almost forgot.” said Headmaster, searching something on the cupboard.

Aska was deliriously happy. His smile spread as he expecting something wonderful from that old man. It could be some mystical dagger that will help him fought against some bizarre in the sewer or at least magical potion. Whatever it is he could sell them at a hefty price. However what headmaster gave to him were far below his expectation, for headmaster just put a chocolate biscuit on his hand.

Aska looked at it with some odd feeling and looks. “You gave him level two Sphere and I got this?”

“Did you know the book titled ‘The Wayfarer’ by Verles June? If he get injured or die here there will be chain reaction that could destroy our world.”

“Don’t make it over, we knew it wouldn’t happen.” said Aska. “At least give me something useful. I was about to fight something dangerous on the sewer and you just gave me this?”

“It is useful. It will give you more energy and it was very delicious, just remember every bite of it and the smell of the sewer will be as sweet as the biscuit.” said Headmaster. “If you don’t want it you can give it back to me.”

“Not even in a dream.” said Aska, bite the biscuit with upset. Then they both go, leaving the old man with the mess.

“Great, I forgot them to call cleaning service here.”

***

“Well the first thing you must know about Ishtar Grove is this place … umm well, give me that book!” Aska then grabbed a book in his hand. “Ok, mission and vision … mission and vision … ah here it is, ‘Our pursuit was to build a just and prosperous society through education and character building’. I never know what it means. But since you’re alien to our world The Grove might be the best place for you to learn everything, history, magic, sports and above all, the girls.” Aska greeted the girl who passed by but she ignored him. “First lesson about the girl, if they ignored you it means they had attention on you.”

“Or maybe she just had no feeling on us.” said Rey looked at the girl who still back on them.

“No she just self-denied.” said Aska while looked at the paper. “Let’s see what you’ve got. Well, the old man put you in League of The Dragon.”

“What that’s mean?”

“Well in The Grove we had four major. Academically it often called ‘League’, Genbu, Leviathan, Griffon and Dragon. Each League represents their particular subject. Genbu the giant turtle, Spirit of Earth and Creation, as its name they’re about to create or forge something, made something for industrial. Mostly they’re male who like to make and tweaking something. Either Metallist or Crystallogist, their major was more practical and technical. Everything seemed fine until years 2 and then busy, busy, busy everyday. Not to mention their teacher was hard, I mean outside they’re look normal like us flesh and skin but inside was steel and barb wire. My friend spent 6 month on his steam-engine for airship and he just got C. Thank god that old man didn’t put you there. But don’t get wrong, though their academic life was hard, and so their teacher, they’re soft as a friend. I often sleepover at their place, talking about metal and mineral I’ve found, and they’re very excited when we asked their advice.” said Aska “Hey, maybe you can ask them about your black Sphere? Maybe they know something.”

“That’d good idea. When we met them?”

“At your will, most of them are fans of LCE88. You’ll easily tag with them if you’re also fans but since you’re just born to our world that couldn’t be.” said Aska. He then looked at the schedule carefully. “Hey, you’ve got two classes with me.”

“What do you mean with two classes? You mean we don’t get along?”

“Well, we’re in the different League. I’m in the League of Griffon, Spirit of Wind and Freedom.” said Aska. “In the League of Griffon we consist of adventurer, voyager, merchant and archeologist. We’re defined to explore the world, seek the hidden knowledge and history, touch the untouched world, charted the uncharted face of the world.” said Aska with the gesture of proud. “Well, that’s what I got on the first day. But rather than explorer we’re more to treasure hunter. What could I say, people needs to pay their life. And those monies were out there, waiting to be found and grabbed.”

“But don’t you want something more adventurous? Like you said before, discover something or reveal some mysteries.”

“Honestly there’s a place I want to find but I don’t know if it were really exist or not. I’m just knew uncertain legend about it.”

“What kind of place is it?” asked Rey.

“Just common land, beautiful and no treasure.” answered Aska. “However if that land was really exist I want to go there, stood on the higher ground and looked at it with my very own eyes, of course with her on my side, if destined.” he continued.

“Who is she?”

“She was the most beautiful girl on this world.” said Aska, then he fall to his reverie like he had when in the train.

“Ok, good luck on your dream.” said Rey, he felt funny about him but at the same time worried.

Later he met a group of people. Their fashion was like Eorin, fancy and elegant, and they wore a light armor as if they were about going into a battle. Dagger or short sword was at their waist and one had a knife at their shoulder. But it was more like accessories rather than true weapon, for they raise their scepter proudly like all their power was in it. One of them casts a little flame over her hand, and then she swung her scepter and plays it. To his surprise he saw the flame on her hand like grew bigger and as she raised her scepter it sprang and turned into a bird of flame and flying around in her command.

“They’re Magi, as we called them they advanced in magic.” said Aska “The Sphere on your hand indeed grants you magic but you could only do simple thing with that. Fireball or ice dagger, everything cast directly from your skin even for Gremlin you need to touch object directly to make it into a blast. But a Magi could do something more advanced. They could shape their magic and do wonderful thing with that, or horrible one. Eorin’s Flame Tornado that saved us back then, that was how the magic was shaped.”

“How they do it?”

“In your eyes what they have in common?”

“They have scepter like Eorin.”

“The scepter was primary weapon for Magi. It was their icon, their trademark. The scepter on their hand had a function to conduct the magic and shaped them. In simple word you’re not only cast a flame from your hand but you can also burst a flame tornado out of the ground or shaped and controlled it like that.” said Aska.

“Looking how she used her magic to save us Eorin must be best among them.”

“No, Eorin wasn’t a part of their League.”

“She isn’t?”

“The one you looked now was from Dragon like you, and they’re seniors and were about final test while Eorin was on Leviathan.”

“Leviathan?” said Rey curious.

“League of Leviathan, Spirit of Water and Life.” replied Aska. “They do medical thing, both magic and potion. Some were around pot learning about plants and herbs. But in Leviathan, Eorin devoted herself on magic research.”

“You have research on magic?”

“Yes, the Spheres on your hand, you must be wondered what they capable off, either magical or physical. Magic researcher trying to found that answer, they do conduct research on sentient and their abilities and how to use their potential to the best.” said Aska “Millennia had passed since Sphere become the foundation for our world and civilization but seems they never ran out a search on magic. And like me Eorin had passion to visit some corner of the world.”

“Another world’s beauty?”

“No it was not. The place Eorin want to visit was worse than Grimwood, dangerous and dark, at least that was according to legend.”

“What kind of place is that?”

“It is Black Continent. A mysterious continent in the far northwest, the sky was dark and the winds and thunder was more savage than the flying dragons. Dwell under the sea, enormous monsters lives and dragged down everything on the surface into dark abyss, some even tell that the sea itself was lives. No bravest sailor would get close to their sea or greatest aviator want fly their airship to the edge of the dark sky. It was untouchable land and no man ever reached there.” said Aska at length.

“Why Eorin would go to place like that?”

“I thought it might be because many mysteries there. Who knows what lied on the black land, maybe unknown civilization lived there or maybe some of our long lost history marooned there. And more than that many of unseen sentient lived there, nameless and has never been unidentified on our books so far. Some of them maybe possess a great magic or even forbidden one. And that would be interesting subject for magic research.” said Aska.

On the way they met a few peoples and among them there’s a girl with the bands in the head looked at him cynically. At first he doesn’t recognize them in casual outfit and style but then he realized that they were the team he fought on the game yesterday. Although blur in his memories but Rey was pretty sure that the girl was the one he fell on.

“Are those guys …?”

“Yes, they’re Aetherion team you had fought yesterday. All of them were Magi, of League of Dragon mostly, including their girl. And Soren, the one you gave him a blasting ball was their alpha. Most of them came from influential and wealthy family in Lucretia, you can check their last name that sounds like expensive wine in the hotel. And I think their gangs formed because their parents get associated, luckily no Sanvierre among them.” said Aska “You must be careful of them, though they just a bunch of vanity and parents-fortune waster with brainless doll as their girl, they’re as bad as their parent, treating others like crap thinking that others just foothold, even to their own gangs, you already saw what Soren did to his teammate right? Strangely peoples looked up at them, and not few want to join their wicked malicious sinister boy band, don’t know what’s on their mind.”

“They play good on the field and beat us. I don’t see a reason to not have to be. They might be hated but also worth to admire.”

“Thanks for speaking a bitter truth.” said Aska “We will try harder another time, and we’ll have a victory. Besides now we have lucky-bungled on our side.”

“Who?” asked Rey.

“Of course you.” replied Aska. “You had humiliated them on the field, especially Soren. I can’t imagine how their face if they meet you.”

“I think I can.” said Rey as he saw Soren walked over to them, followed by others behind.

“What so laughing?” asked Soren. His face now looks clean and smooth; his hair was brown and wavy. He was athletic; pride was his posture and his style was luxury. He was an epitome of an alpha and looked dominance among other.

“Nothing, just little thing for chat.” answered Aska.

“You’re new kid aren’t you?” asked Soren. “I hadn’t thank you before.”

“For what?”

“For presented me with a good game. I thought it would be like watching grass grows on the field, you know, playing against a bunch of loser with their blue yellow dress.” said Soren while he looked at Aska as if he taunted him.

Aska get furious and at once he stepped with anger, but Rey hold him first.

“Keep your friend’s teeth away from us. I don’t wanna get rabies.” mocked Thorn.

“C’mon guys! We’re champion. Keep sportive outside the field.” said Soren, then he turned to Rey. “You’re good in the game, really. Blast me, leveled me to the ground, I never expect such trick like that. So far you’re the only one who succeeded to take me down on the field, twice in single game. That was rough and tough but I like it.” Soren then put his hand on Rey’s shoulder. “Such potential, too bad that it will be wasted under hopeless team, do you agree?”

“I don’t think so. I just like being there, that moment with ball and magic have me excited. I think I’m just like playing without considering wherever my side is.”

Suddenly Soren laughing. “Don’t tell me that you just watching that sport-motivator drama? Just happy being on the field, get ‘almost win’ score and everything ends with happiness.” said Soren. “Real world have bitter truth my friend, you good and you have contract, you win and you have more sponsor, money and women came to you like moth to flame. You may become a jerk but a jerk with florin and fame.”

“I couldn’t agree more with that.” Aska murmured.

“You know, Aetherion Blast was official team of The Grove, many famous players born there. Others, they just splinters that agreed by headmaster so they could be happy on the field. But eventually we always came out as winner and represented ourselves as Ishtar Grove Sneakers Team.” said Soren “So what’s your answer? I don’t know if this information useful or not, but I never get refused and I really don’t like it.”

“I’m sorry, I keep with them.”

“So you refused?”

“Only do respect for those who admit and trust me as their teammates.”

Soren smiling to him, but no sincerity nor kindness looked on it, just a grin with cold looks on his face. “All right then, if that your decision. But let me invite you on the party tonight. Every year we always held a party to welcome a fresh mate, so they could feels like home in The Grove. The party wasn’t too exciting, just good music and pretty girls. I believe you already kissed one.” said Soren glanced to Leona as if taunted her. “But there, I’m sure all eyes on you and the girls will likely to kill to get one sofa with a champ like you.”

“It must be fun but I’m little busy tonight.”

“How about tomorrow night?” asked Soren once again. “I could reschedule the party. For the one who made five on the game I think no objection would came from the others.”

“I think I couldn’t also. Forgive me, but as I have my first step on the Grove I have to catch everything from early time and I’m not sure if I could do it within few days or week.” said Rey.

“Yeah, you heard him. He was busy so let us continue our journey.” Aska added.

Both leaved, but then Soren called them. “Like I said, I don’t like being refused and you have done it twice, the same number like you humiliated me on the field.”

For a while there’s a silence between both sides, as if a war declared without voice.

“C’mon man!” Aska dragged him. “Good job pal, you spit directly to his face.”

“Oh yeah, I just feel I have drawn new enemies here.” said Rey.

“How do you know the party was a trap?” asked Aska.

“I don’t, but I felt like fresh meat to eat when he said ‘fresh mate’.” answered him. “By the way, where we’re going?”

“Fitting a weapon on you.”

“Weapon? For what?”

“You’re in Order of Dragon, Spirit of Fire and Courage. Which part of the word ‘Courage’ you didn’t understand? It was gentle word for ‘die in the front’, means you about to become soldier.”

“What?”

“What’s wrong?”

“Look at me! Which part of me suited to be a soldier?” asked Rey “Surely, I’ll walk like a robot in the armor.” he murmured.

“Chill man! It’s not like you imagined. Grove was like prep institution, you don’t really will about become soldier, although you most likely will end in the Shell. First year you just learn about basic thing, using weapon and Sphere, little physical training and of course few books to read, history, geography, a common stuff to your brain, well not really common since you came from another world. Hey maybe that’s the reason the old man put you there? So you can adapt with us easily.”

“Maybe it is.”

“Hey, get easy, you’re not about send into some war. Just consider this is all was theme park with magic and uncommon beast, and you’re about adventure on it,” said Aska soothingly. “And now our hero needs weapon so he can fulfill his subject and get A on his test.”

“Wow, you made it sounds like adventure.”

***

Presently they stopped in front of sturdy old door. From outside Rey could hear a noise inside, sound of clashing metals it seemed, and tireless.

“Actually there are a lot of good weapons outside, of course with a good amount of florin on the price tag. But since you’re still an amateur better you look for weapons in this workshop. Besides the prices is much cheaper when compared to outside.”

“You sell weapons in the Grove?”

“Actually this workshop was place for the Metallist to practice. Most of them didn’t bring their works after get out so it piled up here. Grove couldn’t sell it to public so they decided to pass it to new kids with some florin to redeem it of course. Basically this place was some kind of armory cooperative.”

Aska opened the door and they both entered. Inside it seemed dark, only less light came through the windows in glimmering shaft. The place was wide, here and there they saw many form of weapons, from swords, spears to axes, lies or hanging in the rack while the defected one piled up in the corner of the room. Metals and minerals of many kinds was seen wherever their eyes looked at, and some ores scattered on the floor. Hardware and grinding tools lies silently on the room but the furnaces blazing in heat and groaning loud as someone turn the blade red on it.

Just then to their surprise a man came with anger. He was a big man with strong and solid muscles built his body. Wrath was his face like God of Berserk and frown always look shaped in his forehead, and he had red thick hair like mane of lion. A big hammer was at his waist, but seems it wasn’t common tool nor it wasn’t for forging the steel, war hammer it might be, with some carvings and ancient writings on the head. The big man ranted about how recklessly that young man on his job and how bad the armor he made while showing one. Sharp and mean was in his tone and being furious seems was his hobbies though nothing has made his day bad.

“What crap is this? I’ve been told you your method will only produce bad armor. Now look at this!” said the big man holding an armor plate. Nothing wrong about it even it looks good in their eyes but somehow that big man displeased with it, no, but more to disgust it. “Three hit from my hammer and it will be a crap. Well, it is crap now and become crap plus when broke by my hammer.”

“But sir, with this method we can produce an armor more efficiently. We could produce three times faster and cheaper.”

“Armor made to protect not to fill your pocket. Who was gave you that idea anyway?! Those craphole politicians on the Lodge who knew nothing but to waste peoples taxes? Why don’t you become one of them?”

“Now take a look! One thing about these big guy he was short-tempered so be careful when talk to him. But over all he’s fine, he’s very helpful as long as in the good mood.” said Aska, then he turned to the big man with open arms. “Eps, my friend, my little gigantor, you look happy today.”

“Don’t act like we’re buddy! Tell me what you want and get out of here!”

“Why? Is my coming bothered you?”

“Of course you are. Don’t you know the pleasure of being mad?” said the big guy with a high voice.

“Rey, behold! You’re now stands before Ephedrim, the best metalsmith in Lucretia.” said Aska, he act like a royal servant when introducing him.

Unexpectedly Eps frowned at him as if some of his word had insulted him and without a word he grabbed Aska and at once threw him into weapon rack. Aska sprawl with weapons scattered around him and Rey was surprised, also scared of what just happened. However that spiky-haired boy seems take it easy like it common things for him.

“The best metalsmith in Lucretia you said?! I’m the best in the world!” shouted Eps.

“False words to say.” said Aska, as he stood and clean himself up. “Yeah, you’re the best of the best of the best in the world.”

“Don’t forget that!” said Eps, then he turned to his assistant “What you’re looking at?! Did I tell you to raise the temperature? And don’t forget to clean up this birdhead’s mess.” Eps yelled without feeling guilty at all, after all it was him who made the mess.

“Y-yes sir!” said the young man nervously.

“What do you want?”

“He’s new guy and he need some gear to start.”

“Are you kidding me? These frail little guy? What next do you need? A spider suit?”

“Eps, I’m serious.”

“Ok, I’m understands. Let’s fit some weapons for you.” said Eps. “Little posture, soft muscle, definitely you still green as pickles. You know, most rookies choose a sword as their standards, easy to use and mobile than any other weapons.”

Later Eps brought them to the right side of the room where there three racks of weapons, all kinds of swords of all type and size well arranged in the rack from broadsword, gradius, to scimitar. Some of them even have odd shapes that he never seen them in his world. While the swords with great size like Zweihander were displayed on the wall. Eps then take the largest among them. Of the kind Zweihander it might be but the blade were broad like the width of war axe, less sharp the blade was and seems very old, chipped and scratch were everywhere on the surface like it has been used on the battle. Though the blade was as big as a youngster but he can hold it with just one hand as if it is just a common sword for him.

“Take it!” Eps suddenly put it on their hands and of course, they both staggered backward, and to the left and right, then fall with that big sword pins them to the floor.

“Seems it wasn’t fit for you.” said Eps.

“No, it’s perfect. Really.” said Aska. He paused and sighed, and looks upset. “Of course it’s not.”

They tried to remove the sword but the sword was so heavy that they have to lift it together.

“Don’t you have something lighter?” asked Aska.

“How about this?” said Eps while shows a Gladius to them. “Ikarus I named this. This type of short-sword was very popular at the time of Magi War, very light …” Said Eps lunges the air with the sword. “… and sharp.”

“That’s sissy sword. I saw Llana had one of this. Once he drew it and the enemies will laugh at him.”

“It’s not sissy sword. Many great warriors used this short sword till now.”

“I know. It just, I thought that kind of sword will only encourage enemies to defeat him.” said Aska.

“How about this? a 200-year-old Gouldur sword?”

“Looks like it’s going to break,” Aska mocked it, “Don’t you have something great? Something fierce, so fierce that the babies stop crying when it raise to the air.”

Later Eps took the sword on the display made of antlers. A broad saber it was, the edge was bright and keen with golden engraving on the blade. “Gorynich, great, sharp and strong, I made it myself with the great quality of metals. And this is Intarma, the magical weapons, the core I was made from the string of Wyvern’s infernal organ, very suitable for someone who experts with flame magic.”

“That’s what I called sword. How much it is?”

“5000 florin.”

“5000? Are you crazy? Just for a sword?”

“No I’m not. If I’m crazy I will sell it for 5 florin to you.”

“But this is extortion.”

“Extortion was there in Nirithrea, we pay taxes but we had medical cost increased. That’s why I moved and become teacher here. I could get free health insurance including dental.”

“You know, I’ve seen the same sword in Tajar and just cost 500 florin.”

“Really? I bet it’s just a cheap sword sold as souvenirs and not a real sword like this.” said Eps, stroking the sword to show the power and beauty of the swords.

While two of them arguing about the sword and their price. Rey’s eyes fixed on the sword at the end of the room. The sword was stick in the black stone like a legendary sword in the tales of his world. Beautiful and perfect it was, the blade itself looks glittering under the light of the sun which pierced through ventilation hole and it was clear as a mirror that he could see the perfect reflection of himself. And such a great swords the hilt decorated with gemstones that blazing red by the touch of light.

“Amazing isn’t it? Tyvelon, the Light of Destiny.” said Eps from behind. “A legendary sword of thousands years old, but still, glittering like was forged yesterday. No one knows the exact origin of this legendary sword, some people told that this sword fell from the sky and only the chosen one who can pull it out and thus he will bring peace all over the world. But others say that it was belonged to a legendary knight and the one who could reclaim it would become the King over Spheria. Tales growth and spread into many versions, which one is true I don’t know but one thing I knew the great sword bring great destiny. Look at it! Even the heaven itself seemed unwilling if the sword stayed on the earth so they pinned it with the light of sun.”

All of them paused in amazement looking at the sword. Only the assistant who pay no attention at all and still continued his work.

“Through ages and history many people tried to reclaim it, songs and poems was written to encourage them but still no one successful. Some even spent their whole life only to pull this sword out.”

“Really?!”

“You don’t know how far the ambition will bring you kid.” said Eps. “Don’t waste your time even to stare at it kid. It was like popular girl among popular, and geek like you was half-world to even touch it.”

“Hey don’t be mean like that.” said Aska.

“I said the fact. What’s wrong with that?”

“Tell you now, I bet he can do it. I bet he can pull this sword out.”

“Oh yeah?! What makes you think so?”

“He had pure heart so I believe he worth of this sword.” Aska grab his hand with faith. “He is the chosen one, it is his destiny. The hand of fate was on him.”

“Then shall he try.” said Eps.

“Go on. Don’t fear.” said Aska escort him.

Rey step forward and put his hand on the hilt. Somehow he felt there’s strength and firmness flows through him, made him feel more than himself. Suddenly all become silent as if the time has stopped and the light from the sky were dimmed, it seems that the heaven itself unwilling if the sword fall in the hand of mortal.

And behold! As if writing his own legend in this new world he pulled the sword out from its earthly throne. So wonderful it was that the light comes again to the earth and shone upon him as if the heaven give the blessing to the new hero.

“Amazing, I knew you can do it.” Aska look so amazed.

On the other side Eps fall to his knees and he look don’t believe of what he saw now. “The sword had raises and so rise the legendary hero of the world.” said Eps. “You’re truly the chosen one.”

The world seems stunned in silence only to see the great one who held the mighty sword. Rey himself can only be amazed looking at the sword. He was confused and surprised especially when he knew that he was the Chosen One who destined to possess such legendary sword. But suddenly,

“Pffft, ha ha ha, I can’t hold it anymore.” Aska burst out laughing and so was Eps, his laugh roaring like thunder on that room even the sounds of clashing metal was beaten by his laughter.

“Ok, I don’t understand.”

“That sword is just novelty. We used it when play drama six years ago.” said Aska.

“Mwa ha ha ha ha, you should look at his face.” said Eps laughing mad.

“Ok, that’s very funny.”

For few moments they both keep laughing and laughing like mad. Eps cramped on his stomach but he keeps laughing without care, Aska himself can’t even hold his tears when looked at the fool face of him. Aska then round his arm and embrace him. “We just joking pal. We laugh with you.” said Aska with bit giggle.

“I know. I’m fine with it. Asti often did prank like this. Yeah, I’m happy if you all happy.” said Rey deadpanned. “Beside, I’ve found what I looking for. This sword quite light and fit for me, better I take this.”

“Are you sure? Such a replica sword made carelessly, single strike from Gorynich and it will break right away. It’s dull anyway.”

“That’s better. I shouldn’t worry about hurting people.”

“Well, it yours to decide.” said Aska, “Hey Eps how much this?”

“He he, it … he he, just 35 florin” said Eps, his laughter began to lessen. “But since you amused me I’ll give you the discount, 34 florin.”

“Just one florin? You bearded scrooge!”

“Don’t protests on me! I’m not one of those politicians.”

“I will not pay more than twenty for that junk.”

“Then why you don’t make the same junk by yourself.” replied Eps.

“Ok, how about this … pssst, pssst, pssst.” whispered Aska. “Do we get a deal?”

“What deal? You just say pssst pssst pssst to me.”

“You must trim that strange beard.” said Aska. He then whispered something to Eps again.

“This boy? Are you sure he can do that?”

“Of course, after all, if he fails, he can deliver your message … with a very elegant style of course.” said Aska. “So, what’s your answer?”

“Ok then, twenty florin.”

“That’s all? After all we negotiated?”

“Twenty florin is the cost of production, though it was only replica I give full attention on the process. And just to remind it is you who biding twenty at first.”

“Ok fine, twenty florin, do we agree?”

“Agreed!”

“Well, then take it from my selling on the cockroaches eyes last day.”

“What cockroach eyes? Do you think I’m a soothsayer? After all you never sell anything to me, you promised me ‘basilisk scale’ then but until now you never bring it to me.”

“I know you would bid for less florin so I’m selling to others.” said Aska “Headmaster will pay for this sword. It’s part of his scholarship.”

“If Alden pays for it why do you insist to bid it?”

“Well, that’s what I am.” Aska smiled “Besides do you dare to collect 5,000 florin from that old man.”

“Mmm … ”

“Don’t take it too hard, or you’ll get old faster. Bye Eps, thanks for the sword.”

Both of them went out of the room but Rey still curious about what had Aska whispered to Eps till he agreed.

“If I may know what you’ve whispered to him?”

“Just men chit chat, nothing special.”

Chapter 10

To Create a Flame

“Oh, I almost forgot. This is a little gift from Eorin, you’ll need them while you’re here.” said Aska, while handed him a gauntlet with two Spheres attached. In both Sphere sealed a little chubby pipsqueak-like creature, both have the same appearance despite slight differences especially their color, one had red skin and the others was bright yellow. Rey was so thankful with the gift. She never thought that winsome girls like Eorin could be so generous to him while they just knew each other.

“Don’t get too excited, she gave you a gift because she intended to turn you into her minions, two lowlifes under her feet will give more fun to her.” said Aska, then he give the Gremlin Sphere to Rey. “And this one was from Freeya, let’s just say that he consider you worth of it after you knocked down Soren.”

“If I may know what Spheres is this?”

“The red midget Eorin gave to you was Ruby Imp, an Imp with fire element. It will give you the ability to create fireball or others low-level fire attack. And the yellow one is the Coral Imp, lightning element sentient. With that you could cast a ball of lightning or little stun from your finger.” said Aska. “But I’ve heard from my father that the Great Artharis ever did inflict massive lightning attack with that rookie Sphere.”

Aska then drove him to the Training field, a yard which located in the rear part of the Grove. It was provided for the students to practice their fighting abilities, both in the use of weapons and Spheres. A yard of ten hectares divided by a high wall stretched with semicircular shape. The landscape purposely designed uneven and rough, giving the impression of a real battlefield – even on the left part there’s special area which construct by yellow sand. An artificial pond built in the middle of the Field with large tree stood firmly on little island in the middle of the pond. The trees look so ancient, so old that its gray bark was more like a stone than wood.

From where he stood, he could see Grove Stadium on the left which looks towering and gigantic. The banners of Grove and the royal flags rose interspersedly and swaying as it is demonstrated the glory of Kingdom of Ishtar. While on the right he could see building that looks like a snail shell. The wall of the field made him couldn’t see clearly what it was, but judge from its cavernous half dome it might be an auditorium. And in the opposite of the entrance there’s a building, contrast to both building on either side which towering high, the building looks like an ordinary building, few meters higher than the walls but it looks wide enough to play Sneakers therein.

As he walked on the field, he was surprised by a dozen of timber-like monsters which suddenly sprang out of the ground. However they just passed him and everyone else, they running quickly on the grass like shadow of the fox and hop into a man in unison. But as they flew in the air to attack him swiftly he shot them all with fireballs, rapidly and precisely, and the last timber-monster he clove with the sword he unsheathed in a flash.

“What was that?” asked Rey.

“It was Yggdrassil.”

“Eggdrasil?!” said Rey seem curious.

“You see big tree over there!” said Aska while pointing to the big tree in the middle of the pond. “It was Yggdrassil, Lord of the Fairy Trees, ancient one, people said that one was planted by Queen Astarte herself. It could control the environment around him, ground, water, grass and all around you except those with flesh and blood. In the simple word it was here to help student for practice by creating some kind of battle simulation like the wooden puppet you just saw.”

“Is he fine?”

“Yeah, as long as you don’t get it upset like brought an axe.” said Aska.

Rey seems doesn’t concern about where Aska would take him. His eyes more persuaded to observe anyone on the field. There he saw an archer who shoot a wooden monsters but they wasn’t like the one he seen before, it was taller about half of an adult, quick at running and very nimble, leap to and fro even dive in the ground to sprang up and attack him with rapid shot of seeds from the mouth. The archer seems overwhelmed against them, but his arrow was fast and precise, swiftly taking all of them without wasted one single arrow.

Then his eyes draw to a female Magi standing near the pond. She stood calm with eyes closed as she waiting for something but the Scepter clutched firmly in her hand as if she were going into battle. One sway from her scepter and suddenly the water in the pond moves like a living thing and snaking like water serpent surrounds her. Then the water flows in beautiful motion as if following the dance of the Magi. And with one quick finale the water was sprang, frozen in an instant and created beautiful ice tree, amazed anyone even for those who live in this world.

Many wonderful things he couldn’t found on his world though he also saw something familiar for his eyes like a row of teenagers who swung his wooden sword, a dozen peoples ran around the field and a group of kids with their instructor where he now walked toward them.

“Flo, my little girl.” called Aska.

Rey was little surprised when he saw Flo’s appearance at this present. She’s very different from the girls he saw last night as if they were different person. Her hair that was brown at shoulder length before now it’s blonde and short, and the blue eyes stared at him last night now turned black. With grey outfit and dark leather jacket she wore plus two swords strapped to her hip she was like a young heroine in his presence rather than a bright cheerful girl in his remembrance.

“Flo?!”

“Oh yes I forgot to tell you. Flo has a rare Sphere which gives her unique ability to change her physical appearance. Eorin ever told that the Sphere actually grant the ability to regenerate body cells and manipulate it rapidly. I don’t know what it means but she told that it could healing your wounds in an instant, remove poison from the body and very helpful if you had always sleepy on the class like me.” said Aska “But instead of it Flo turned the Sphere into salon to change her appearance whatever she like and whenever she wanted, shortening or lengthening the hair, change the color of her eyes and she didn’t even need to sunbathe for day just to tan her skin.”

“I bet every girl in the Grove will do anything to get her Sphere.”

“Don’t ask about that.”

“What are you guys talking about? You’re not talking about me right?” said Flo look curious.

“How we dare talking you behind, isn’t Rey?”

“O-of course.”

“Then why you both came here?”

“As you know my little nerd cousin up here is a new student, and congratulations! You’re his instructor.”

“What?” said Rey and Flo in unison, though both of them showed different expression. Rey was surprised when heard that while Flo seems excited to have him as her apprentice.

“This would be nice.” Said Flo looks happy, she pinch his cheek and kneading his face then stroke his hair till tangled. “There you are, now you’re cool enough to be my apprentice. Now come with me!”

By force she dragged him to the presence of her junior apprentices, a set of little kids who have not even surpassed ten years of age.

“You must be kidding.”

“They’re kid but she wasn’t kidding. You should obey this girl or … well, trust me you don’t want to make her mad,” said Aska calmly. “Good bye boy and good luck.”

“H-hey Aska! Wait a second.”

“Let say ‘hello’ to Rey.”

“HELLO REY!” The kids shouted like a mumble of bumblebee.

Rey did facepalm when heard that while Flo laugh at his reaction. Well, at least it’s safer than chased by beast, he thought.

***

“All right kids, Rey will show you something wonderful, so amazing that you’ll be stunned you to bed.” said Flo exaggeratedly to the kids.

“Woooow!” said those kids in unison.

“What you’re talking about?”

“Don’t be shy, show to them like you did on the field yesterday.”

“But I can’t.”

“Now you made a joke.” said Flo.

“But I really can’t.”

“What do you mean you can’t?”

“I mean that’s the reason why headmaster put me here, with them.” said Rey, pointing to the kids who looked at him innocently.

“But I saw your game yesterday. It’s unique and funny, I never saw something like that before.”

“Coincidence, luck, some sort of things.” Rey shrugged.

At first Flo seemed don’t believe but soon as she looked at those eyes, she realized something about him.

“So yesterday … well, that’s more interesting.” said Flo with sly smile. “All right kids, what the most important thing when we use a Sphere?” asked Flo.

“Valia.” answered the children in crowd.

Rey didn’t understand what they yelled about. He just glanced to both kids and Flo like a fool then raised a hand to ask.

“You have a question?”

“Yea, what is valia?”

The kids laughed when they heard his question. But then Flo stood with arms akimbo before them but without frown on her face. “Kids remember rule 101!”

“Never laughing when someone asked even if it silly question.”

“Good,” said Flo, she then smiled at them with two thumbs up.

No horror appeared on the girl like Aska said. On the contrary Flo looks friendly and good in front of these kids.

“Valia in simple word was our mind, our will, our desire. As you know the sentient which sealed inside the Sphere is like an ornament in crystal ball, frozen and immobile. However, even they’re physically sealed but not with their mind. Their valia, their will or instinct still goes on. It was like Aska’s delusion, running with a girl on the beach while he physically sat unmoving in the class.” said Flo. “If I may ask, what do you feel when you using a Sphere?”

“I don’t know what it was. But when I used it I felt something, like someone or something talked directly into my mind. Well not like talk actually, but it was like …”

“I know.” said Flo, “When we used a Sphere, our mind and their mind connected to us, thus we shared knowledge and influence one another. When our valia, our mind was stronger than them then we can control them but the opposite will happened if our valia is weaker, it will be hard for us to use a Sphere or even worse…”

“It will control us?”

“Actually it rarely happened instead I’ve never heard such case. Mostly when your valia is weaker you couldn’t control your energy and magic, your own flame will burn to yourself or you could end blow up yourself if you can’t control Rex-Gremlin Sphere.”

“Wwwoooooooooooooo.” The kids shouted in awe.

“Enough about explanation, you make me said something that shouldn’t be heard by this kids. I can be demoted from my position as junior instructor.” said Flo. “You have two standards Imp Sphere which can’t be owned by these children until 4 years later. Now show to them how to create fireball.”

“How?” asked Rey.

“Just let your energy flow and shoot fireballs from your hands!”

“If I may know, how exactly I could let off my energy?”

“Listen this, if we believed we can or we have more spirited on something then our energy will flow, gave us strength to do something or create something, no matter how hard it is. On the contrary if we lack of faith or less passion then our energy will depleted quickly, that’s why we got lethargic and sleepy when dealing with calculus because we have no passion on it so we don’t have energy to even write a number.” said Flo. “Energy follows our thought. Think about magic, believe that you can do this then the energy will flow to create it.”

“Ok I get it.”

Rey raised a hand and one of his Spheres glowing, the fairy of fire creation, the Ruby Imp Sphere. At once he felt there’s another consciousness in his mind, very tame and friendly. It shared unspoken knowledge with him, can’t be told by any words or languages, and can’t be written by any symbols and letters, the knowledge of magic. The energy flows through his hand, warm like a summer breeze blew on his hand and then a pure flame ignites upon his hand.

He was so excited looking a flame at his hand like a little kid mastered new magic trick. But what happened next? Instead forms a fireball, the fire blazed and covered his hand wildly. Shocked and panicked, he screamed and ran away, and without a second thought he threw himself into a pond. Flo and all the kids immediately ran followed him, only to see him with a laugh. Flo then give her hand and helped him out of pond.

“How do you feel?” Flo laughed.

“My hand …” Rey looked at his hand. But strange, no scorch on his hand or pain he felt, though his hand feel warm even when he get wet. “What happened?”

“The flame covering your hand was just energy transformation. It will not burn or harm you till you formed it into fireball.” said Flo. “Now could you try it again? And try not drowning yourself again this time.” said her while laughed.

Chapter 11

The Red Haired Woman

‘Boring’, a kid muttered as he walked under the scorching sun along with other kids. Their hand holding a small flag of their Kingdom and they’re guided by three teachers whom for an hour not letting their sight loose from the kids that might be trying to separate themselves from the group.

They walked down a sidewalk, beautiful rows of cypress tree stood tall on their left like natural fences. Almost all peoples there had good style and luxurious, newly look and shine. But somehow they looked ignorant for their eyes shows dislike on them like they were nothing more than little rascals.

At last they arrived to the place of their destination. All those kids looked up in awe and amazement, for they like saw giant beehive loomed before them. Ishtar Lodge it called as they knew from the book, house of all council and the heart of Ishtar politic.

In the courtyard of the vine-patterned marbles, dozens of statues lined circling around Ishtar Lodge, looks so proud and graceful in their gray silence. But there were two statues which destroyed, one is that the headless statue with inflame shape in its right hand. While the other one are not tiled in the courtyard but stands alone on the far side of southwest, near the hedgerows which limits the Lodge and roadside. The statue is three times larger than other statues, if it could be called statue, for the condition was severe enough and left almost pedestal only, even the pedestal itself looks half buried. And judge from the sculpted dress-shape that still remain on its pedestal, seem it was the statue of a lady.

The main atrium was decorated with inner garden and marble floor. Three floor made open to public, there’s no concrete wall, only giant glass atrium within steel panel which showing a view of crowded employees and visitors inside. The kids now watching the history of their kingdom through various photo and documents which keep safe on the display, and looks like they’re not interesting in what their teacher brought for except its wide space, cafeteria, all about sentient and Sphere things and the circular sundeck on 3rd floor where everyone can see a whole view of Lucretia from all side.

Above the atrium there’s a guest room, only for those who had interest, a state and official guest of the member of council. There’s also meeting rooms and administration. While council office was construct by three floors above and consist of 504 rooms of the councils. And one floor above functioned as a central archive which stores various kinds of royal documents.

And the top part of the Lodge was the Convention Chamber, serves as a conference room for members of council in order to discuss any policy – theoretically, but in fact it’s used to talk about everything except The Chamber was meant to be. Insistent winning of their personal interest and unhealthy debate only to humiliate their opponents was the mostly function of it.

The balconies lined along in the walls, stacked and arranged in concentric patterns from floor to ceiling, facing the throne in the middle of the chamber. Each balcony occupied by three members of the council and two soldier were guarding in the entrance.

The man of the throne sat down with prestige, but neither arrogance nor injustice appears on him. His face was charismatic and shows glorious nature of him. His gray eyes look so gentle –compassion and leniency glows on it but deep inside lied firmness that could finish off both comrades and opponents whom threatens his kingdom.

For the last minutes he listened carefully to a middle-aged man who stood in the middle of the Chamber. He looks well-fashioned, showing himself as both power and confidence. His face looks fair and young for a man at his age, a type of most favorable politician for young housewife and women crave for grandeur, especially he had deep voice to enchant them. His brown hair combed backwards with little tip show on the forehead.

The Chamber structure is similar to the auditorium. The slightest sound will reverberate loudly and clearly heard by anyone who was in the room, and every word would be delivered by walls and rotunda. The man spoke, staring at the king and all the members of council. He stood as if challenging the whole Kingdom of Ishtar only to voices his mind.

“Gentlemen, honorable member of the council, eight years we have signed a peace treaty with Azgalor, eight years we have ended the conflict with the Federation, but still I do not feel that our war with them was ended. I don’t see the flame of Nagard extinguished, their black smoke still rising and pierced the sky, bring fear upon our peoples in the west. And this time of peace doesn’t stop them from advancing their gears or gathering power in the desert land.” He was silent for a moment as if he was gained strength to fight “Slowly but sure the Federation gathering power to start a war with us, again!”

Godfrey watched him at the balcony. His face was like respectable nobleman, his smile was calm but he had eyes of conqueror. He looks gallant as the knight with sword, and yet elegant as the master of magic. He was the leader of Greater House of Sanvierre, feared and honorable as the man who holds power and knowledge.

“Do you know who he is Cromlech?” Godfrey asked to the man next to him.

“His name is Rovasiras, an elected council of the Namasse. Graduates of Runeglade and had fine wealth. He was skillful in the art of sword and magic like you, sir. And he was quite ‘interesting’.”

“Interesting?”

“In the term of politic.” said Cromlech. “Nothing I knew more than what I mentioned before. He was really clean, little achievement but no black record. That’s why he won the election in the agribusiness city. Not to mention his opponent was arrested for bribery case of the cow import, right before the election. But the way he stood and spoke there I thought he was quite an expert for a senate from the borderland, more expert than most members of the council, new kid who keep his idealism.”

“Seemed he wait for a moment like this.” said Godfrey. “Do you know about his politics?”

“A true idealist seemingly, can’t be compromised by the money for sure. But obviously he wanted more power and position, maybe he will not waste five years on this Lodge. Would you invite him to join us? Someone like him wouldn’t be going to waste the slightest opportunity and he can be useful more than we expected.”

“He was opportunist from the style of speech and he will not hesitate to sell us if our side was less profitable for him.”

“Didn’t all of them like that?”

“We all did but like you said, we don’t know about him. We don’t know his currency, is it money, position or something else. And you had none of his disrepute to get better deal with him.” said Godfrey. “We had plenty time for recruit, just watch him for now. Besides we don’t know if he could pass this initiation. Sahagin wouldn’t make it easy, even to stand before him.” Godfrey continued as he looked at the black man stood before Rovasiras. He has strapping stature and tall, and his head shaved bald, power and strength looks bold on him. His eyes were dark but blazing as if contained many rage in it. His voice was heavy and hard, piercing all the ears in the chamber.

“Good words you had, like drunkard poet in the tavern rather than someone who worth to belong here.” said the man with harsh words. “I didn’t receive one single report that Azgalor attacked the border and all posts in the west already confirmed it.”

“Then how do you explain what happened to our peoples in the west. Their village was attacked, dozens of people killed and hundreds and more disappeared without trace.”

“I’ve had done an investigation even before you could think the first word in your speech today.” said Sahagin, “I realized that the incident of mysterious attacks which occurred on the western border lately deserves our attention, but it can wait until the investigation is completed. There is something more important, a far more serious threat and very close to us now.” Sahagin paused “Some of you may have heard and some of you might be too busy to play with your concubines till you don’t know at all, but I assure that Artharis already outside of Lucretia and he could strike anytime if we don’t act soon.”

A brief silence fell upon them then at once it broke by fears and panics, their voices grew into tumult and filled the Convention Chamber. They spoke to their own fellow comrades next to them while imagining what would happen when the silver-haired man came to attack the capitol of the Kingdom.

“Then where’s he now? I don’t know him better than you, indeed. But I believe that he wasn’t type of person who likes to wait, if he had truly been near here, he would have to break through to Ishtar Lodge and kill us all now. But where is he? Where is he now?”

The tumult turned into echoing whisper like a buzz of bees. Almost all members of council considered what Siras said was reasonable especially them who was fought along with him in the past like Godfrey and the king himself. And Sahagin’s expression show that he admitted his argument, given that he himself was the former of Aesir, so he knows very well the character of his master.

“Maybe he’s waiting for the right moment, waiting for us to off guard.”

“’Maybe’, looks like it just an assumption of someone who was vengeful on him.” Rovasiras speak loudly “So you don’t want to mobilize the royal forces just because your poor allegation, while our people in need of our help to save them from the invasion of Azgalor.”

“I told you I was investigating it. We still don’t know who did it or what their purpose and I do not want to mobilize all forces to go to the west while Artharis are outside Lucretia and ready to devastate the capitol of the Kingdom.” said Sahagin. “Beside you need more than indication to start off the war against Azgalor once more, that’s why we need the investigation to be completed.”

“What if I had a proof? Will you mobilize royal forces to the west?”

“Depends on what proof you’ve had.”

From his sleeve Rovasiras took a Sphere. It had the hue of setting sun and no creature looked inside, only pattern like snowflake inside. Then with some magic he makes grow a wooden plinth on the middle of the chamber. It was look like a twisted dead tree and the top shaped like skinny old hand.

Rovasiras put the orange Sphere and at once the wooden finger grabbed it. Dimness filled the whole chamber suddenly, nothing to see but the shadows of every person there.

“The ghost record?” said Godfrey.

“What he want to show us?”

“I don’t know, but this dimness was bold than commonly. Definitely it was something that happened under the night.”

“Keen eyes you have, sir.”

“Not keen enough to supervise him till I don’t know what he had.” said Godfrey, as he waiting what will be shown under.

Suddenly there was something like ghost came out of the darkness, dozen of them and their shape like a common peasant. They ran scared from the Phantoms who shot at them. All were surprised, all were shocked even Godfrey slightly moved from his seat to see it more clearly.

“Take a good look my fellow noble. This is what happened to our peoples in the west.” said Rovasiras.

“How did he get this?” asked Godfrey.

“I do not know.” Cromlech also seemed surprised.

“Only a sentinel could acquire something like this but I saw Sahagin have the same wonder like others. Look like he didn’t even know about this.” said Godfrey “Is he had connection with the Royal Sentinel?”

“I doubt he had. We controlled almost half of the sentinel and the rest were under the person before him. Impossible if some sentinel made contact with him and gave such confidential record like this without our notice, or Sahagin.” said Cromlech. “There might be a third party who sent this to him.”

“Then they had sent it to the right person.”

One green flash shot towards the throne. No worry or fear looks on the king’s face even calmly he saw the flash of light bolted to him. The energy shot just passed the king like wind, doesn’t hurt him at all. Then all the dimness lifted up and the light came again into the chamber.

“That’s the only evidence I had, but you can have it if it can makes you reconsider to send forces to the west.” Siras offered that orange Sphere to Sahagin.

“I’ve seen enough.” said Sahagin coldly, hiding a bitter feeling of defeat in his cold face.

Siras smiling at him for a moment, then he turned to stand in the middle of the chamber and look at the member of the council. “Honorable members of the council, the only reason I spoke to you here and insisted to send royal forces to the west is just because that’s where my home is. I lived and came from Namasse, I love my home and I love my people. If we don’t deploy our forces to stop Azgalor, it doesn’t take long until they got into my home and kill people I love, people I knew.” said Siras. “For God sake they’re your people too and they need you right now.”

“And the only reason I insisted on keeping forces in the capitol is because Lucretia is the center of this Kingdom.”

“Artharis just one man.” Rovasiras stated.

“That ‘One’ was the one who defeat the Dark Lord and his armies. You don’t have idea how powerful he was, his summoning beasts is more than enough to ruin one tenth of this city.” said Sahagin. “I don’t blame you, maybe you still busy to had candlelight dinner with your girl at that time.”

“Maybe I am, an indeed I don’t know how powerful he was. But one thing I know is our people in the west has been threatened and what you think now is just your own personal vendetta against him.”

Both paused and no word spoken. But it seems they still continued to argue each other, not by word or speech but by eyes which staring cold each others.

“I’m not sure if they were Azgalor.” said a girl who walked toward them. Her face covered by white veil but look glorious her appearance was and graceful. Her black hair tie with the string of pearls, and her eyes were so bright and beautiful. “I’m sorry for interrupting but in my opinion they don’t like any troops that we have known so far. I agree with General Sahagin, we should investigate this incident before we decide whether to send more troops to the west or not. After all, if we are wrong we will create an open war with Azgalor once again.”

Sahagin just silent with the face as cold as ice, no gratitude was looks on his face for someone had stand beside him.

“Forgive my indelicate manner Princess. I just want the best for the people of Ishtar.” said Siras bow respectfully in the presence of the Princess.

“As I do, chancellor.” replied the princess. “I don’t want we closed our eyes from the suffering of our people in the west. I do wouldn’t wait while I know these incidents will befall to our people again.”

“Thank you, Your Highness. Your attention is very meaningful to us, the west folk.”

“Since you’re late, maybe you didn’t hear that I’ve already investigated it.” Sahagin interrupted, seemed he doesn’t really care whether the girl in front of him was a royalty or not.

“With the vengeance inside you, could you wholeheartedly do an investigation on what happens in the west? While you more focused to deploy our troops to the Grimwood in search of silver-haired man. I heard a lot of them wounded by wild beast and poisoned by plants.”

“I don’t mind if you want to take over the investigation?”

“I don’t intend to take over or interfere on your investigation. Your job is to find the perpetrators behind this while what I wanted is to find hundreds of our people who missing in this mysterious incident.”

“Want to save ‘people’? You’re starting to sound like a politician.”

The princess doesn’t heed what Sahagin has said. She just turned and walked down then she bowed before the King. “I came here, humbly before you Your Majesty, offering my service for this Kingdom and its people to find our poor civilians whom missing in this incident.”

The Convention Chamber turned into silence. Sahagin stared at the princess with the look of disparage, for him she was nothing more than a little girl seek for attention from everyone. While Rovasiras glanced at all the faces on the top, they sat and looked at the king with deep thought as if waiting the supreme ruler to pronounce something. But after a moment in silence, yet no word has spoken from the king. He just stared at three peoples before him with keen eyes as if want to see inside their mind. And with great deliberation the king give his words.

“This is the dark hour for our kingdom. After eight springs of peace the threat of war came again upon our peoples in the west. Silent war had enough gave them suffer and now the unknown menace shadowing them with fear. At the same time Artharis Sin has waiting before our gates, a great legend and hero he was who for recent years became notorious for his crime and hunted by four nations in the Green Continent. I don’t know what his purpose here but I know the measure of his strength and power, for I too fight beside him against the Dark Lord, like Lord Godfrey and General Sahagin.”

The king paused for a moment as if waiting all eyes and ears on him. Then he continued.

“My daughter had reminded us why we’re here, why this chamber built. Our peoples in the west need us, protect them and find those who had missing shall be our first priority, without having to create potential conflict with other nations.” said King Virenas. “But, although her voice takes the initiative of my decision still we need someone with more experience and resources to accomplish this task. I submit that the investigation still remains under General Sahagin of the Shell but with annotation that he shall give full attention on this issue. As for Artharis we will focused to protect this city rather than hunt him down. Doubled the guard and stop the search on him, and I hope this time you want to put off your personal vendetta and would be my subject to command my old friend.”

Sahagin bow his head though his eyes dauntlessly show his dissatisfaction before the king. Rovasiras just smiled, either politically he gained something or he just satisfied to see Sahagin unsatisfied. And the princess, there’s disappointment looks on her but she gave her credence on the king’s decision.

“The Wisdom of Your Majesty was the best for the Kingdom of Ishtar and the peoples.” said princess as she bows respectfully to her father. Then three of them stepped back from the presence of the king.

We move to other issues. Ministry of Foreign Affairs, please steps forward! I want to hear a report about our cooperation with the Kingdom of Nagari due to the sky pirates of the east.

***

The sun was climbing down into the west. The light pierced the clouds and sent forth a long yellow beam across the sky. The whole city was falling into pale gleam of gold but far there the Grimwood still looks haunted in grey shade of the hill.

Princess Nivera stood in the sundeck waiting for the sunset. The warm light of the golden sun glimmered on her face but her eyes looks gloomy when looked at the royal palace in western hill.

“That beauty always fascinated me.” said the voice behind her, and when she turned around she saw Rovasiras stood and smiled to her.

“Pardon me?”

“The sunset, they always fascinated me.”

“Really, I thought you politician doesn’t have ‘something needed’ to enjoy this kind of beauty.”

“Something needed? You mean heart?”

“I think someone needs clean soul to see how beautiful the world is. Otherwise you just want to grab it rather than to preserve it.”

“I even think that we just need eyes to enjoy this panoramic view. And we just need more constitution to preserve this world and humanity.”

“You’re a great politician Siras and few of good one I knew in Lodge.”

“But not as good as you, for I didn’t see politics in you.”

“Then what did you see?”

“Peoples.” said Rovasiras. “You almost remind me when I was young, passionate in politic and have great desire to change the world, so spirited that it was like liquid flame flows through our vein.”

“Then why you ended here? Why you become politician, become the arch enemy of yourself?”

“Because I realized that’s not how the world works. How zealous we were eventually we will lose against those lazy bastards inside there. Our spirit and act mean nothing against idiot with rank and position. And so I do what I must, I’m here.” said Rovasiras “But if I look back nothing I have changed. Back then I am free to write and make critics but no one listened and my hand has no power to change anything. Now I have power but I limited by politics, my hand held a power as long I gave my hand to my colleagues. I just realized that I have failed, both as poor scholar and young politician. I couldn’t make the world better.”

“I think no one could.”

“You could.” said Siras.

“What change I could do? You have seen it yourself. I lose against a general who less intention and willingness on this.”

“Is that stopped you? You’re princess. You have power than any of us inside, not including the king of course. Yet, you have passion and spirit like I had before, I saw it in you.” said Siras. “You will be a good queen and great leader for our peoples, I can see it in you.”

Suddenly someone came and whispered something to him. Siras just smiled and looked forward when heard it, seem it was just common political issue.

“Tell him I’ll be right there.” said Siras to his aide then he turned to Princess. “I’m apologizes if I have to end our conversation. But if I could give you advice, follow your courage. Do whatever you think is right and if something messed up, you’re princess.”

“Thank you.” said Princess.

“Have a nice sunset my young lady.” Rovasiras smiled and bowed respectfully to Princess Nivera. Then he walked away.

“Seemed not good inside?”

A woman suddenly sat on the baluster beside her. Her face looks pretty and young but has matured as a woman. Sexy and slender body in a tight black outfit plus the odd sword slung at his hip, she appears as a skillful female warrior who survived through many battles. Her hair was bright red like a luster of ruby when the light of afternoon gleamed on her wavy red hair. And light-brown eyes that looks so sharp and bright as if able to see clearly all the nonsense of the man with just one glance.

“You have heard it. My father didn’t grant my wish.” said Princess. “But I wouldn’t stop here. Siras was right I must follow my courage. I must do something.”

“But the king rejected your wish because you have lack of experience and resources. Sahagin have four decades spent in service and battles, and great one. And he had more than enough resources to have his eyes and ears knew everything on the entire kingdom. While you, no we are, only knew about gossip and affair of nobles and council inside, their bad habits or their young mistress, who and where they are we knew much about them. That’s the kind of our Intel, not some serious mysterious incident in the far west.” said the woman.

“Maybe I had lack of experience and resources. But I have resources with many experiences, you.” said Princess. “C’mon! I know you want to go.”

“All right, but could you removes that Siren Sphere?! Just odd heard you with such voice. Even with that you still spoke with a lisp.”

“At least I’m sounds mature with this voice.” said Princess.

“Where we do start? For your information I couldn’t stalk someone at the level as Sahagin.”

“Maybe this would help. It was record of the incident belong to that man. Sahagin has too much pride to even touch it, so I took it,” said Princess. “I believed many of council not much paid attention on this before. Maybe if you check it carefully you will find some clue about them.”

“I will. Check one track of record not too difficult than the one Azuna gave me.”

“What Azuna gave to you?”

“Just Recall Sphere like this. It contains the design of 200-years-old castle. Azuna believed there’s something hidden inside. So he needs my help to check it.”

“Really?” princess looked at Scarlett with excitement.

“Don’t ever think to get involved in this. If Azuna works on something, it means huge and dangerous.”

“I don’t. I want focused on this.” said princess, then she murmured. “If this finished then we went there.”

“What did you say?”

“Just think that you need a backup on this mission. You will about to search missing peoples, you can’t do this alone.”

“But who? Do you want to ask help from them in the Shell or another agency? We will get in trouble if the king knew what we do. The only one we can trust to join us was Azuna but he continue his journey to the White Continent and unlikely back in near future, not even up to the festival.”

“Maybe we could ask him to help. I’m sure Grove had a lot skillful person to back you up on this mission and keep this secret.” said princess. “I will write a letter.”

“No need formalities, I can ask him for myself.” said Scarlett while wearing her plastic veil.

Chapter 12

Intro Fight

Like a fox, Scarlett leaped from one rooftop to another. Fearless and light-footed she was as if the air was common streets for her. She set foot on the Gargoyle, the stone demon which roosting at the top of the temple, swinging on the flagpoles on the building, floating under the glass bridge between two building and surprised those who revel in the Helvetia Top, the place of wealthy and glorious people in the Capital of Lucretia, to at last she stands at the top of building, staring Ishtar Grove which rose majestically before her.

Meanwhile in the dorm, Rey have sat on his bed, he stared at his own palm. A whole day he tried to create a fireball and so far unsuccessful, all that happened was his hand covered by fire like his first attempt, or if not he’s unable to maintain its shape – a ball of fire that was always disappear, either by wind or extinguish itself before he could shot it.

Now he tried again. Over his palm a flame ignited and gradually forming a fireball which blaze over his palm. Unexpectedly the fireball shot up suddenly and burned the fossils of four winged dragons hanging on the ceiling. He panicked and immediately took off his shirt to off the fire. Just less than half a minute the fire extinguished, but as a result the whole room was smoky and his shirt had burnt-holed.

Aska opened the door and to his surprise he found his room full of smoke. His eyes explore every corner of the room. Nothing has changed except the fossil which he saw this morning was white now has filled by black smudges. And of course shirtless innocent-faced boys who hold his burned shirt.

“What? How do you …?”

“I just … fire, a Sphere.” said Rey panicky.

“Ah just forget it!” said Aska with sound of sigh.

That spiky-haired boy changed the clothes in a flash and lay down on the mattress. Seemed he too exhausted until don’t care about what happened to his room, not even to open the window so the rest of the smoke will go out.

“Where have you been?”

“Living in punishment for the Zymmeth incident.” answered Aska. “All the day I’m explore the sewer but I didn’t found that Kloagator not even to see the ripples of danger. You know, I hope much on that reptile to get my stash filled up but now my chances has gone, flying up to the sky, well maybe swimming to the ocean. Now I know mysterious creature in the sewer just an urban legend.” Aska snorted. “How’s your training?”

“She taught me how to use the Sphere, she also told me to swing the sword as much as 2000 times and also made me target of her bullseye firing in front of the kids.” Rey said with a slightly sour look on his face, he finally understood why both Aska and Freeya do not dare with that girl.

“It looks like Flo I know.” said Aska with eyes closed “How about the other lessons?”

“I’ve been pretty tired when following other lessons but yeah I can keep up. I learn a bit about your world, about the history, about a great war you just passed and I’m wondered about one thing.”

“Yeah about what?” asked Aska yawned.

“About the Dark Lord Azriel.” replied Rey.

Those closed eyes suddenly popped open as he heard the name. Aska who was already lying down now sits with bright glow of eyes as if his sleepiness gone in a flash.

“Let me tell you kid, there are some things in this world that shouldn’t be mentioned or talked about, and one of them is the Dark Lord. Our elders always said that talk about the devil will only make them come to you.”

“I’m sorry, I just …”

“That’s okay. You’re new kid on our world, fair if you ask something like that. Besides, Lord Azriel is dead now so nothing to worry about, you’re lucky you came here two decades after his fall.”

“What happened to him? How he’s fall?”

“It was Artharis, a General of Bulan Kingdom who defeated him.” said Aska. “My father was an Aesir and he was there. It was great battle on the plain of Elderon, all men all nation gathering power and marching to fight against Dark Lord. We lost many lives at the day but we gain a freedom and future without fear.”

“Wait a second you mentioned the name ‘Artharis’ but I didn’t found that name in the book. If he took the big part in history and defeated the Dark Lord why his name wasn’t mentioned?”

“Of course you won’t. His name was erased in history and all his merit disregarded.”

“Why’s that?”

“He did some terrible thing, great crime against humanity, that’s why. But my father doesn’t believe it neither I do.” said Aska. “Besides there are a lot worse than him, Sanvierre, politicians, those generals and those politicians, that bitchy-faces woman on ticket booth, and … politicians.”

“You mentioned politicians thrice.”

“Well, they’re worse than others.” said Aska. Then he rose and opened the window looking for fresh air.

***

Scarlett took a path through the training field and the security seemed quite careless until no one has noticed her, peaceful night which never disturbed in Grove had made their instincts blunted. She slips behind corridors and walls quickly and nimbly. Nothing halted him till three daggers of ice stopped her. She turned around immediately and there she found a girl stood at the edge of the pond with blue eyes stared at her.

“It’s late Miss, you’d better go to the bed!”

“Bit cold to take a walk at the night right?” said Eorin as she raised a hand. Suddenly an ice dagger stretched over his palm with the sound of cracking ice. Scarlett just ran away without care of her but Eorin throws the ice dagger to halt her once more.

“Want to play huh?” Scarlett then drew her sword. It was curved sword, the spine was thick and dark extends to the handle but the edge was sharp and bright, and it seemed the blade was jointed to the spine as if the sword could be apart.

Suddenly, as they stood and took stance to fight each other, from the dark sky above a winged shape clove down the wind at great speed toward them. They looked upward immediately. Under the crimson moon a huge bird swooping down swiftly with a light in his talon, but it wasn’t common light they saw but a boy holding luminous sword.

“Are you sure this is good idea?” said Rey with the sword of Tyvelon glowing in his hand.

“We just alarmed the Grove, what you ‘fraid off?”

The Tyvelon on his hand glowing so bright like hold great power in his blade. Then among the speed and wind he jumped down suddenly, the empty ground in front of Scarlett he clove with glowing sword and at once all the power in the blade unleashed into a great blast.

The ground cracking and the wind breaking as Tyvelon hit the earth, Scarlett herself pushed back even she does evaded before the blast. Rey on the other side was saved by his own luck like he did on the Sneakers – an energy shield created under his instinct and saved him from the blast. Although he doesn’t suffer any injuries but he was shocked by his own doing. It seems he couldn’t estimate how much energy he had to store on the sword till created such blast. The Tyvelon still held in his hand but what left from the sword now is just the hilt along with the faux jewels within.

“He’s really lunatic.” said Eorin “You know I’m actually never believed your story about he was a traveler from another world till I saw this. Or it’s you who telling him to do this?!”

“I just told him to make an alarm not a pit hole.” answered Aska “Sigh, I’m glad I didn’t buy him that five thousands florin sword.”

What happened next are as their expected. The loud explosion wakened up the entire grove and before long they saw in the distance the shadow of peoples running closer. At the beginning Scarlett didn’t have any intention to draw trouble in this Grove but somehow she involved in an unexpected battle with these kids. Feel it was pointless to face them the red-haired woman decided to run away. But suddenly a flame blazing around and entrapped her, and the water in the pond rose like a living and smote her in great streams.

For a moment there’s smoke rose and everything fell into silence as if the battle had end. But as the smoke swept by the wind they were surprised, for they saw no one was there. The red-haired woman had vanished. “How did she escape?” thought Eorin.

“Did I tell you before …” Suddenly Scarlett had stood beside her and put her sword on the girl’s neck. Wonder how that woman could stand beside her – ten feet from her point of attack in a second without their notice. However Eorin felt a little heat came from her sword and wrist, and she saw little tip of her hair was burnt. No doubt that she was there when her flame arose and entrapped her. “ … I don’t have time to play.” said Scarlett.

Aska throwing his dagger into Scarlett, but to their surprise the red-haired woman vanished before their eyes into glowing-blue smoke and next they found her had farther away from them. As she ran away she vanished once more and at once appears in the distance. And before they realized they couldn’t find her no more on the field.

“How did she …?” said Rey look so surprised.

“Teleportation, Silverhare Sphere.” said Eorin “I thought there’s nothing more left in the Spheria except the one which belong to headmaster.”

“Let’s go! We must after her before she escape.” said Aska.

“You want to? Please impress me! I want to see you catch her.” Eorin challenged him.

Scarlett no longer seen in the Training Field, possibly that redhead has already in the Grove. With the abundance of space and winding hallway in the Grove, it’s impossible to chase someone who has the ability like that. Inside there, she was just going to play cat-and-mouse with them.

***

Headmaster office still calms in the solitude as if unaffected by the clamor outside. The light was soft and warm on that place, and the windows hold the shadows of the night outside. The books were silent though have many words and a bust of great thinker in the past staring hollow at the quiet place.

All of sudden a red-haired woman appears in the middle of the room. Though she didn’t see anyone there but she found opened book with a warm tea beside. She realized that someone reside on this place wasn’t to be underestimated of, that old man must have been aware of her arrival even without having heard the blast outside.

Suddenly a ring encircled her, glowing red on the floor like burning steel and at once red transparent dome arose and encage her. Scarlett tried to teleport but she couldn’t. All her Spheres seemed have been locked down by some force, none she could use but dim glow in the Sphere.

Then the door opened and came of it an old man walked in toward her while carried lemon slices on the little plate.

“Could not be good without lemon.” headmaster casually spoke to the woman.

Scarlett just watched him passed by and took the tea.

“Shall you have to do unusual stunt like this? Why you don’t come from the door in normal way?”

“Because it is in our blood … uncle.” said Scarlett.

“Well, just be careful next time.” said headmaster, as he lowered his red dome. ”What business brought you here? I thought I have told you to guard the princess.”

“Indeed, but now I got another assignment from her.”

“Assignment? From 14-years-old girl?” asked headmaster.

“You know how spirited she is. Beside she’s royalty she gains political rights five years faster than anyone.”

“Maybe, but whatever she want to achieve I think that was unwise to interfere some serious threat in national scale.”

“So you already know what we will talk about.”

“I don’t seat here if I don’t know what happened outside.” said headmaster. “If I may know what kind of plan do you have? I believed you will put your feet away from The Shell or any authorities since they wouldn’t aid you on this illegal quest.”

“This is my aid?” said Scarlett, as she shows an orange Sphere.

“Recall Sphere?” replied headmaster.

“Azuna gave it to me. He wants me to check it.” said Scarlett. “The story began when he investigated Sanvierre’s secret facility in the outskirt of Kastorea, a small town located in North Nirithrea. Outside it was just a big mansion surrounded by forest but Azuna believed that Sanvierre do some illegal research there.”

“Believed?”

“Well, it was ghost town now and off the map. The last date he found was about ten years ago in the news about kid who mysteriously missing in the forest. He found many clues about what happened there and a bit about what Sanvierre doing but still no evidence.” said Scarlett. “His search continued to an architect in Namtar, the designer of that mansion. However something unexpected happened there. As he arrived he found the architect stabbed by an assassin with few Raiders crawling in every corner of the room searching for something.”

“Raider? How they’re got there?”

“I don’t know. Strange isn’t? They tend to secede from society and away from civilization but now they’re in the middle of the biggest city in Ishtar.” said Scarlett. “Azuna fought them, few Raider killed but the other fled with the assassin. The architect himself suffered great bleeding, odd the wound was like three-pointed star carved on the chest. But before the death took him he gave Azuna this Sphere.”

“Have you checked it?”

“I have. Inside it was contains blue print of an old castle located in the west and seemed that architect bought it less than year ago.”

“Then what make you think that this Sphere related with the incidents lately?”

“You should check at this!”

Scarlett put a Sphere into an elephant-shaped candle holder. At once the room turned gloomy and the show at convention chamber played again.

“So this is the record of the incident.”

“Other than council in the Lodge and us, no one knew about this.” said Scarlett.

“Then how did you get this? I hardly believe that the person who have this before would easily hand it over to just anyone.”

“Well, the princess is not just anyone.”

Both looked at what happened around them. But suddenly headmaster frowned when he stared the Phantoms in the eyes.

“It couldn’t be.”

“What? What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,”

Few minutes later Scarlett pausing it and everything around them seemed frozen. Scarlett then brought her uncle to the corner of the room, where they saw a man lied on the ground.

“This is what I want to show you.” Said Scarlett, as he pointed to someone’s leg where something like blades stretched and grabbed it.

“Raider claws.” said headmaster.

“Do you think it was coincidence? They’re out into the big city and now they put themselves in this.”

“Coincidence or not, I do not know. But for now, considering the situation, shall every fact, every possibilities or even coincidence take into account.” said headmaster. “Maybe to that old castle you shall depart.”

“Could I borrow someone from your Grove?”

“Why? You usually do something by yourself.”

“I don’t know. I just feel I need a little backup on this trip, and princess think the same.”

“Then I would recommend a few people to you.”

“No need, I’ve found them already.”

“You mean ‘them’? They’re still students here. They never have involved in a battle.”

“But it seemed I can count on them. Beside small possibilities I have one on this trip, just go there and check the castle. Nothing will happen.”

“Ok then, if that so you get my permission to bring them and promise me that you will take care of them and bring them back safely.”

“Sounds my objective has been doubled.”

“You’re their senior, protect and guide them you ought to be. After all who ask them for the first time?”

“I understand sire. You’ve got my words and they will have my sword.” said Scarlett.

“We will be assembled tomorrow morning so better you get rest now. You can use your old room.”

“Thanks uncle.”

Chapter 13

Sudden Mission

“Is your world just boring as this?” asked Aska, yawning wide, staring half of the class which looks surfeited when listened to the teacher.

“For some part yes. It’s just that we had no winged dragon living in our world or a crystal ball that makes your finger as a lighter.” said Rey while glances at the girl next to him. However, instead of the girl itself he’s more interested by what she’s doing. She’s writing teacher’s lesson in her book word by word, not with pen or ink, but the letters itself printed by only moving her two fingers over the books –black it was like burnt but smooth and neat as if her finger is a laser printer.

“Oh yes, I forgot to tell you. There are games in three weeks and Freeya already listed you in the team and he also told me to train you. You got position as a Runner like me, so we’ll get together on this.”

“How about Flo? She spent one third of my day and I’ve seen both of you and Freeya doesn’t ever have any nerve to face her.”

“Hey that’s not true, we just … I guess you’re right, we should not interfere your schedule with Flo. Should we exercise in the evening, I guess 1-2 hours is quite enough.” said Aska, he then leaning his head on the bench as he yawned. The spiky-haired boy then looked up, trying to open his eyes by force and strengthen himself. However teacher’s face which looked monotonous along with the white walls persuaded him to shut his eyes.

Seemed nothing efficacious for treating his sleepiness till a middle aged woman goes into the classroom and make his eyes opened at once. Aska knew exactly that face, a face that he always met when he met a trouble. That woman then spoke to the teacher in the faint. No wonder what they talking about but soon both face in the front staring at them both with her finger pointing right at their direction.

“It’s just my imagination or that woman pointing to us?” said Rey while he moved himself left and right but her finger seemed follow him.

“That woman is the assistant of Head Counselor. Every time I got trouble I always met her. It’s not a good thing if her finger pointed to us.” said Aska.

“You two!” called the teacher.

“Don’t look at him! Look at the wall or girl next to you.” said Aska.

They both trying to look calm and innocence was their faces. Aska open his book and pretending to read while Rey stared the girl next to him.

“Why you staring me?” asked the girl.

“Mmm, well I-I … y-you v-very pretty and should every man loves to looking you fall … I’m sorry! I mean every man should be fall in love when looking at you.” said Rey stuttering.

“That’s very nice of you.” said her with smiling.

“Talvar brothers, step forward please!”

“Thank God she just called you.” Rey look relieved.

“He said Talvar brothers that mean we’re both, fool.”

Then both of them walked out from the classroom and follow that woman behind. Somehow Aska felt strange, for the way they took was different than he usually had when he got trouble. It turned out that the woman brought them to the front yard, and there they saw Eorin already take sit under a canopy tree. The girl sat and reading a book, her eyes look serious but her pose seemed relax.

When Eorin turned the page a flame suddenly burst out of the book, leaped down to bouncing on the floor and then took shape of little fox. Look unique and cute it was when scurrying around her feet like a little puppy, the furs were flame swaying gently by the winds but the tail blazing wild like torch.

Rey chuckled at the little fire creature, but without expected that fire fox suddenly stared at him fiercely. The fire embodiment on its body get more blazed as if represent its fury and then the little fox ran to and jump at him. At once the little fox turned into a huge flame engulfed him. But strange, he doesn’t felt heat at all whereas the flame wrapped him. He just felt a slight breeze of wind.

The flame of magic vanished in flash as Eorin closed the book and the girl smiled smugly saw him flustered by her trick.

“What was that?” said Rey still shocked.

“Magic Guidebook for 2nd Grade, those fire fox is just an illustration and it will disappear if the book closed.” said Aska, “I think you understand now why Eorin want you to become one of his minions.”

“Well, at least I have one minion friend to share it with.” said Rey while patting Aska’s shoulder.

“So they called you too.”

“Of course they are.”

“What’s going on? Why we called here?” asked Aska

“I don’t know exactly.” answered Eorin.

“Then why you look so calm?”

“This is Grove, what the worse things could happen if we called by her.” Said Eorin, as he pointing Counselor’s assistant who stood not far from them. “Isn’t that you who often dealing with this sort of things.”

“But still …”

“Most likely we are called here for what happened last night, so it is unlikely that we are get detention for it.”

“Blow up training field, making noise at night and woke up entire Grove.” said Aska, glancing at Rey “And since the redhead gone in a flash and leave us alone at the field, it looks like we’re making trouble for nothing. Yeah, we wouldn’t get detention for it.”

For a moment the three of them talk about what they were told to gather. Until headmaster arrive with Scarlett beside him. She was no longer wearing a tight leather black outfit but casual outfit like others in common. But she looks ready to fight any time with three Spheres attached on her gauntlet and black sling-backpack which slung over his left shoulder.

“Sorry to keep you waiting.” said headmaster.

“What’s up jumbo?! Why did you call us?” said Aska, he acted like he was buddy-buddy with headmaster.

“You always radical as usual.” said headmaster.

“I think I’ve seen you before.” said Eorin with an inquisitive look to Scarlett and when she realized who she is without a mask, the girl immediately brandishing her Scepter as if she want to make second round with her. “You!”

“Calm down Miss Gardnierre. She’s Scarlett … my niece.”

“Niece?!”

“Yes, she served in the palace. She was protector of Her Majesty Princess Nivera.”

“Then why the person who should beside the princess could be on your?” asked Eorin.

“I’m on the mission which gave by princess herself. I tell you later about the detail, shall we go now?” replied Scarlett.

“Wait a minute, what do you mean by ‘we’?” asked Eorin.

“I just need a little backup on this trip. And three of you had passed the initiation by trying to kill me last night.” said Scarlett. “What’s your answer? Do you accept it?”

Three of them were stood silent, seeing each other, till Aska made up his mind. “Well, at least it’s better than living on the class, I’m in … no, we’re in.” said Aska hold Rey tightly in his arm.

“How about you girl?” asked Scarlett to Eorin.

“Well I thought you need someone to take care of them.” said Eorin pointed at those boys. “I’m participated.”

“Ok then, shall we go now?!”

“Now?! We haven’t even packed up yet.”

Scarlett then inspect the three of them, in her eyes they were quite prepared to leave considering their appearance isn’t much different from last night when they fought her. From the way Eorin greet him, has been ascertained that the girl was ready to fight. And she knows that spiky-haired boy was the Volk tribes, as long as the green Sphere looked on him seems no need to worry about him. While Rey, Scarlett assume that the boy was empty-handed fighter or at least from the blast last evening, she knows that the boy was used Gremlin Sphere, the ability that might be useful on this mission.

“Well, look at your appearance it looks like you are more than ready to go.” said Scarlett firmly.

Then four of them say good bye to the headmaster and leave. Scarlett and those kids just few steps away from him but somehow headmaster felt that they’re had already far away as if unreachable.

“Is it okay sir, to let them go? It might be dangerous.” said the assistant.

“I’m not worried about them, as long there’s Scarlett on their side and as long as they keep each other I’m sure they’ll be fine.” headmaster pondered for a moment. “It just I’m afraid if this is all more complicated than I thought, then their lives were in danger.”

***

From the west a train entered the station followed by piercing announcement of female voice through the station. Rey and three other companions walked among the crowd. He looked around. The station was wide and nice. The ceiling curved upward and almost looks like a giant web of steel and glass. Shop and café were almost on every side of the station, only few visitors were there even when the station was quite crowded. Some people look sitting in the waiting chairs, a businessman who read the book, elderly couple who seems enjoying their lovely past about this station, and the other one was a soldier. He wore dark-green uniform equipped with silver-colored armor, his silver helmet has aerodynamic shapes – like a cyclist helmet with mask covered his entire face. And a curved sword slung in his waist, a standard sword of Royal Army of Ishtar.

Dozens of passengers get down as the doors opened. Some of them just walked away in a rush just to catch a time in this busy town. Few of them get sat on cafeteria after the trip. And among them one man ran and kissed his little daughter and then he held her aloft, and his wife smiled at them. Rey looked at them with soft and warm eyes but sad smile spreads on his face as if he yearns for something that he never had or felt.

“What are you waiting for? Let’s go!”

His reverie disappeared at once. Quickly he stepped in and got into the train. However his eyes still not get loose of that family.

Siren rang out, followed by the voice who announced that the train will be departed to Khatar, a city located on the western border. The train set off to go and just in seconds it has drove out of the station. The sunlight breached the windows but soon eclipsed by a building not far from there. Rey glanced up at the building, and something caught his eyes at the top. It was two statues of women facing each other with hand raised. A big globe of crystal was over their hand, rotated and floated – untouched by their grey cold hand as if the statues levitate and rotate it with some magic. But more to his amazement was the map which engraved in the floating globe. It wasn’t world map he knew so far, no shape or line on the map was recognized by his knowledge.

“That was Sanvierre Tower. They’re the company that produces Sphere.”

“Produces?”

“Yes, initially Sphere was a prestige item made from natural crystal which called crystallite. In ancient times only certain circles and a class of people who have Sphere, it owned and passed down from generation to generation as a family heirloom.”

“Time by time the Sphere and the users had growth in numbers, tradition and castes could no longer hold peoples need and so the Spheres become common among peoples. Even so peoples still need high amount of florin to get one of them.” said Scarlett. “However less than thousand years ago the Sanvierre House find a way to create synthetic Sphere. By that they’re capable of producing Sphere massively with low cost. Made them become the main and the biggest provider of Spheres in Ishtar both public and military.”

“Sounds great.” said Rey with excitement.

“Yeah, they were great.” said Aska “Especially their crimes.”

“Is that bad?”

“I always want to think positive like my uncle.” said Scarlett “At first I’ve thought that their devilry is just rumors which been greatly exaggerated, until they did something bad to my best friend. From then I think their wickedness wasn’t just gossips and better if everyone stay away from them.” Scarlett continued. At flash she glanced to Eorin, that girl gave no expression though she knew the girl was listening.

Before long the train was out of the city and from their seat they could see Lucretia away far behind and fades in blurring white.

“If I may know, where are we going exactly?” asked Rey.

“Western border, the City of Khatar.” answered Scarlett.

“Why do we get there?”

“It’s hard to explain.”

“Well, give us a short briefing then we can make a good strategy.” Aska look excited.

“Do you think this is a campaign, a battle?” said Eorin.

“Actually it does.” Scarlett interrupted “At least it can be called like that. Do you hear the rumor about what happened in the west border lately?”

“Yeah, I heard some strange disease outbreaks there and few villages had been quarantined because of that. Seems bad till government gave no info about what happened there.” answered Aska.

“Because it’s not disease.” said Scarlett.

“What?!”

“That outbreak just cover up story.” replied Scarlett. “The truth is all those villages were being attacked.”

“What? They’re attacked! Who’s done it? Is it Azgalor?!” Aska shouted.

There’s sudden silence on the carriage. Just in a second Aska was succeeded to make all peoples stare at them. Some of them whispered each other with the black look as if they’re just a group of mad. Nonetheless few peoples take him seriously till their face turned to worry.

“Can you keep your voice down?!” said Scarlett. “There’s no definite report about this. We don’t know for sure how it happened or who had done it but we have lost five villages just in a month.”

“Do you think Federation done this?” asked Eorin.

“It’s too early to draw conclusions like that especially if it comes into Azgalor, false conclusion and we can ignite our delayed war with them once again.” said Scarlett “However few days ago Rovasiras, a member of council of the Lodge had received a record about this incident, so far we could say that it wasn’t Azgalor though it wasn’t made them being eliminated to ‘behind this’ list.”

“Why did they attack those villages?”

“I didn’t know for sure, but from all the villages that had been attacked most of the villagers are gone.”

“Gone? What do you mean by gone?”

“Disappeared, vanished, gone somewhere. Obviously we never find their whereabouts.” said Scarlett.

“Is there any survivor?” asked Eorin.

“Unfortunately we have found no one so far, unless they whom become a corpse.” answered Scarlett. “However since they leave bodies there, at least we could conclude that those who being taken was still alive, at least needed alive.”

“And our job to find them isn’t it?”

“You got the point.” Scarlett smiled.

“Where do we start?” asked Rey.

“Khatar of course, we took information there and start investigation.” said Aska, “Right?”

However Scarlett gave no word to answer or reply, he just silent like think of something to say to them.

“This is illegal mission right?” said Eorin.

“It is?” Aska look surprised.

“This quest was initiative of Princess herself, no paper, no badge. But princess really meant on this and she really want to find them. And naively I want to believe it, for I too want to find those villagers.” said Scarlett look serious. “Now I want to ask all of you, could you do this under illegal command?”

“I’m okay with that, even better. I’m feels more free under illegal circumstance.” said Eorin.

“Well, you legally gave me day off from the class. Legal or illegal, still I would join this trip.” said Aska.

“How ‘bout you kid?”

“If I can do something to save them, then I will.”

“Good.” Scarlett smiled to them. “Now check on this.” Scarlett rolls an orange Sphere on the table and Eorin pick it up. “You had good fashion in magic, so I believe you can construct a map easily.”

“What is this? Is this the record you told us about?”

“This is blue print of an old castle, one of the remaining of Illitea Nobledom.”

Later, after Eorin had attached that orange Sphere in her bracelet, Scarlett took a jug of water beside him and at once pouring it into the empty table. Awe fell upon Rey, as he saw what it has become, neither it spilled nor splattered, the water itself form a big drop on the table. It moved and gradually shaped something and with a wave of her hand she turned it into miniature of ice. A castle miniature it was, built of ice and looks well-carved as if put every detail on it. And it wasn’t just chunk of white ice in the shape of castle but it has clear looks which Rey could see everything inside it in small size from the main hall to every chamber, stairs to pillar, even broken windows and pillars were shaped perfectly in the miniature. But something have wondering him, about empty square chamber inside the castle. It was the widest chamber on the castle but plain and empty like hollow ice cube.

“So this is our destination?”

“Yes. We start there.”

“So what’s wrong with this castle?” asked Aska.

“Long story, but I think we will find something there.” said Scarlett “This trip long also, so get rest or order a meal if you’re hungry.”

“For your information you had dragged us from the Grove with empty pocket.”

“I’ll take the bill.” said Scarlett.

“Really?” said Aska look excited.

“Though illegal this trip was sponsored by Her Highness herself, so feel free to order something.”

Eorin get close to Scarlett and whispered to her. “You shouldn’t say ‘free’ in front of him.”

“Why?”

“Waiter! Here, here! Over here!” said Aska, while called a waiter who pouring tea to another passenger. And after finished he approached him.

“Can I help you sir?”

“Can you brought me roasted lamb, full body, keep the horns if necessary. Then grilled lobster with a smear of butter, then fried goose liver with forest mushroom sautéed. Oh, do you have Mammoth Beans for snack?”

“I’m sorry sir but we don’t have it.”

“Brought me wings then, crispy and spicy, whatever it was as long as not Zemzelt wings. And then…”

Scarlett surprised at his order. She was forget that he was Volk Tribe, they could eat about 4-5 portion of normal men do, even if they were had small posture like him.

“You’re right. I shouldn’t say ‘free’ to him.” whispered Scarlett to Eorin.

“I’ve told you.”

“You three stay here. I have to go somewhere.”

“Where? Can I come with you?”

“It’s VIP lounge. I don’t think people at your age can’t order anything there or even to enter.” said Scarlett. “Can you keep him not to add more digits on the bill?” Scarlett whispered to Eorin.

“No problem.”

While waiting for the order to come Aska stared at the windows. Urban and crowd were rarely seen now, only small town on the green hill they have passed but mostly he seen villages and farms with white herd running over the green plains. He whistles cheerfully, no tense look on him and maybe no thought in his mind about what perils awaiting them. Maybe just out of the class was enough to make him enjoy this trip, plus a combo which about to come in minutes.

“How Khatar was looks like?”

“It was fortress city, loomed wall ring protected entire city.”

“Fortress city?” asked Rey wondered.

“Let me show you.” said Eorin.

Eorin search something behind the seat and then she back with an orange Sphere on the hand. It was same like the one Scarlett given, have orange hue and no sentient sealed inside, only it has a band around it with some letters written on it, “West Region Map’ it was read in their language.

“What Sphere it was?”

“This we called Recall Sphere. Unlike another type of Sphere this one doesn’t meant for magic nor sealed any sentient.”

“So for what?” asked Rey.

Eorin waved his hand over the ice castle. At once it changed and gradually forming some terrain, some ice rose into transparent mountain, but only about a quarter, for it was trimmed straightly by the edge of the landscape. Some hoarfrost formed a forest and crack forking like it was a river. And some part was split wide. A ravine it seemed with rail-bridge connected both sides.

“How you did all of this?”

“My Snowlion Sphere did cast the ice. But even with great magic and will, it’s nearly impossible for anyone to shape their magic like this.”

“So the orange Sphere gave the shape.”

“You learn quickly. The one Scarlett had contains the structure of castle while the one I use right now contain the map of western border.” said Eorin. “But blue print or map wasn’t the only one you could store in Recall Sphere. It could be anything, moment, memories, a record, sound and visual, or something like that.”

“Kinda like flash drive.”

“What’s that?”

“Just trivial stuff in my place.” said Rey.

“But this Sphere doesn’t standalone like any other Sphere, it must use altogether with a magic, elemental mostly. And not only that, we must cleverly choose the elemental magic to shape our record. For example structure or terrain like this better if we use ice element or another solid element. For record best if we use Rainbow Crow Sphere, it could produce visual and sound at the same time, even Ishtar Lodge used that simple Sphere to play a record.”

“This is amazing, to think that I can finish my school project with one wave of my hand.” said Rey look excited at the ice terrain. “But seemed it was difficult.”

“Do this was easy matter but create a map inside the orange was the complicated one.” said Eorin.

“Where are we now according to … this?”

“If you asked the exact location now, on this scale, it’s about a desk behind me. So about an hour we will pass this bridge.” said Eorin, pointed at the rail-bridge shape. “And Khatar was about …”

By her magic Eorin turned the landscape into slab of ice, no shape appeared on it, just rugged surface of ice. Then with a soft touch of her finger it suddenly turned into a miniature of a city, a hexagon wall or fort protecting the city and at the center of it stands a huge tower with something like four barrels attached on it.

“Magnificent right?”

“Is this Khatar?”

“Also called the Grand Fortress, in the time of war this city play important role as a staging point to defend our west border against Azgalor and in the time of peace it became a central to running King’s policy for the west. As you can see every road and rail all centered to this city. And because of its economic and political position the City of Khatar also called the Capital of the West Rim.”

“West Rim?”

“It was long region stretching along the western border. Basically The West Rim was the former region of Illitea Nobledom which now become the part of Ishtar Kingdom.” said Eorin. “Before the coming of the Dark Lord the Green Continent consisted of five nations, Ishtar, Azgalor, Illitea, Nagari, Nirithrea. But about hundred years ago the Nobledom of Illitea was destroyed.”

“By whom?”

“By the Dark Lord Azriel.” answered Eorin. “How he destroyed it I don’t know the detail about it. But it was said that the Dark Lord made clash between nobles and created war which tore the country from inside. But the destroying of Illitea was prelude of bigger and longer history, for since then two great nations, Ishtar and Azgalor were always in tense and war to proclaim the lordless land.”

“That’s why I don’t like modern history. One noble splash a wine to other noble then waaaaaa …” Aska screamed. “… the war broke out. Bad history always happened when nobles or politician did something idiot.”

Suddenly Eorin felt strange feeling, as if someone watching her, watching them. But when she looked around everything look normal, nothing suspicious, peoples talk and eat like a common. Only a soldier there catch her attention more than the others but he just sat and watching the windows like someone unwillingly sent off far from home.

“What’s wrong?” asked Rey.

“No, it just my feeling.” said Eorin.

Suddenly Scarlett sat next to Eorin with two cans of cola in his hand.

“You came back fast.”

“People there only talk about politics and money, I can’t stand with them. So I came back, brought only two cans from the ice box.”

“Are you really lived in the palace? Became royal guard? How you can’t stand against that political chit chat?” asked Aska.

“In the palace we only had gossips.” answered Scarlett.

“No politics?”

“The gossip was the politic. You can rules half of the nation just by knew the nobles affair.”

“That sounds fair.” said Aska.

Chapter 14

Frost and Fire

“Nice Scepter, can I see it?” asked Scarlett.

“Sure.” said Eorin as she hand it over to Scarlett.

Scarlett looked and examined it. It was like made by bone, straight and smoothly polished, have length of arm and hexagonal. The blue jewel at the tip glittered by sunlight and her finger felt cold as she touched it.

“Angel Tears, The Maestro of Blizzard, enhance all water-ice elemental magic. With this every ice and water is yours to control.” said Scarlett, “But as I knew it belong only to The Brethren of Arctos in North White. I don’t think if someone in Ishtar could have it moreover I believe you don’t belong to those Brethren.”

“I got it from pawn shop with only 400 florin. The owner seemed doesn’t realize what it was, so was I at that time.”

Scarlett glanced at her for a moment, she knew that the girl before her less in truth about the scepter but she also realized that she wouldn’t do something dishonorable to get it, no vileness look on her nor she was ever did it.

“Well, this is nice stuff.” said Scarlett, as she gave it back to Eorin. “It has answered my question why you’re very good with the ice and water.”

“Yeah, but I’m also used its counter element of fire and this one reduced that part of mine. If you want to know I give all strength to trap you in the fire whirl last night.”

“Still this is nice stuff and very useful especially in the humid area like west border. And especially if we must face someone, or something.” said Scarlett.

A few minute later waiters deliver their order and in less than minute the table already filled by foods and beverages, well served and looks very delicious – especially the grilled lamb which glazes brown. Delicious smell was unleashed from the food and tempting anyone to lick one’s lips to its delicacy.

Rey took his dish calmly and modest while Aska feed himself with gusto, his right hand clutch the roasted fat leg of lambs while his left takes whatever on its range, whether it’s chicken wings, crab, buns or lettuce. It seemed he doesn’t care whatever would goes into his mouth.

“Good thing about boys, you can eat anything without any fear of getting up a weight or ballooned our abs.” said Aska, as he teased Eorin with the way he ate.

Eorin got lured, she was so upset that she doesn’t realize that she gulped an empty bottles. Scarlett on the other side doesn’t give concern about that spiky-haired boy. For last minute her eyes had been more focused on the soldier who was sitting in the front left of them. He looks like a common soldier, low rank from his dark-green suit and armor. So was the curved-sword in front of him, it was standard sword of Ishtar Soldier at his rank. But somehow Scarlett felt something familiar on the soldier, something which told her that the man was beyond his rank and sword.

A moment later a waiter came out of the door with service trolley, everything on it was frozen even the water in glass and jug had turned into solid ice. The door closed with a slam and so the tense between them grew bigger. The soldier slowly and secretly took something under the table while Scarlett immediately grabbed her sword in the backpack and her Sphere glow to prepare a magic.

“Get ready!” cried Scarlett.

“For what?”

Suddenly the soldier threw a knife at her, glowing red as thought just been forged in flame. But either it missed or the soldier deliberately not aimed at her, the knife passed her to the waiter behind. The hand was skillful and fast, quickly the waiter caught it right at the hilt, strangely the red glow on the knife dimmed and vaporous.

Four of them were standing on alert immediately, look left and right, friend or foe undecided.

“You girls get off now! Let me take care of him!” said the soldier, as he drew his sword.

His voice and the way he spoke sound familiar on Scarlett’s ears. Untold feeling of resent fell on her, for it heard like howler in her forgotten past. Still she didn’t lower her guard at all.

The soldier run passed them and jump forward attacking the waiter with one quick slash of his sword. But the waiter immediately pulled out a sword from misty trolley to fend off the attack. The waiter give a smirk beneath his strange sword, no steel was made of it, the blade itself almost like ice shard with bone as the hilt, but it was strong and hard more than any common steel, couldn’t be melted or be break easily as if it was made by the white ice of eternity. But overall the blade seems possess mysterious power, bitter cold haze emitted from its blade. His helmet and mask were covered with frost and slowly it spread to his armor as if he was just being in the snowstorm. The cold frost forced the soldier to step back with hands shivering in frost.

“Iceberg! Still good as I remembered.” said the soldier, as he took off his helmet.

Scarlett looked at him with surprise. He was a man with crew-cut and stubble covered his strong jaws. He had high stature and looks gallant in his uniform. Fearless and sharp-eyed, as his eyes focused to where his sword pointed, no glance given to the others except Iceberg. And the way he wield his sword exuded great strength as he is able to cleave a tree with just one slash of his sword.

“Marius!” cried Scarlett.

“Long time no see Scar!” said Marius, without remove his gaze to Iceberg.

“You know him?”

“I wish not.” Scarlett looked crossly.

“Thanks for the compliment. Now could I demand you to get out of here?!” Marius commanded.

Scarlett gives the cue to the others but only few steps from the door, Iceberg thrust his sword to the floor and once it does the whole room become cold and only in an instant, the floor and the windows frozen and covered by ice especially the door before them. The ice was thicker on it till blocked the door knob.

However the danger wasn’t only lies before them, all of sudden a shadow streaked on the windows and the sky rumbled with the roar. Peoples looked up and some ran to the windows to look into the sky. Nothing they could see to the edge of their sight but in the ground they caught a shadow pursuing them, large and winged.

“What’s that?” said Rey looking up.

“Wyvern.” answered Aska.

“Is it a good thing?”

“Normally, but somehow I don’t feel right about it for now.”

Shade crawls on the running steel and suddenly a dragon stooping out of high air with a roar to their surprise. Swiftly it flew to chase the train like hunting a prey with the wide wings stretched against the gale. Peoples looked up through the windows and at a glance they saw a gleam of light on the winged beast. Suddenly the dragon unleashed a huge fireball to blast. The train was shaken, all the windows shattered and all peoples cried in fear.

Inside, Iceberg cast his magic and four ice chunks rose before him, at the size of man and dark inside like there’s something trapped in the ice.

“Bandersnatch, take cover!” shouted Marius

A sudden fear was upon them as they heard Marius warning. They running scared into the door, but the door had already covered by ice so they just huddled fearfully like cornered sheep. Only Rey who stood out of the crowd undaunted, he wondered what they feared off, even now Scarlett more alerted to the ice chunks than Iceberg himself.

And like break the tense, suddenly four wolves break out of the ices. All white like hunter in the winter forest with eyes gleaming in the cold haze and protruding long fangs surpassing the jaw. No word or command came from Iceberg but they suddenly leap and passed him, run wildly over the table and chair, so sharp their claws till leave deep scratch on tables.

Two wolves were running on Scarlett and Marius while other two go wild behind and attack everyone on their sight. As the beast leaped on her Scarlett teleported and appear to kick it out of the window. At the same time Marius has caught the wolf on the neck with a hand and at once strikes it with his lightning magic. Something strange happened, as the beast killed, it shattered into ice shards.

However those behind didn’t experience a better fate. Aska dealing with one of them, he was down and trying to keep those teeth away from him, Eorin help him by knocked it with her scepter. While Rey on the other hand were trying to rescue a fat man whose arm is bitten by the wolf. Scarlett trying to help them behind but Iceberg step ahead and attack them first. His ice sword swung and clashed with their sword.

Beaten many times by her scepter, the wolf turned to Eorin in mad and leaped. But as it leaped Aska grabbed it first and throw it out of the window. Meanwhile Rey still trying to rescue the fat guy but suddenly the wolf turned and attacked him to fall. Now they boy must fought to keep those teeth away from him and in that situation he grabbed whatever he could and without a second thought stabs it to the beast. But then his eyes widened in surprise as he saw the knife on the beast was glowing. The knife suddenly blast with cold frost splashed to his face.

“Fyuh, I’m lucky it wasn’t a real wolf, if not I must get to laundry.” said Rey relieved. “I have to control my Gremlin from now on.” he muttered.

Outside, the Wyvern flew around the train, overshadowing them like the shadow of death. Then with a long thrum it swerved away and attack the train once again, three fireballs the beast shot in a row. The train was shaken by the blast and almost derailed.

“Damn that torch! Is he forgot that I was inside?!” cried Iceberg look frustrated.

“Let me take care of that flying lizard. You deal with him.”

“Be careful! He called the man outside ‘torch’, if my guess was right you will face a big trouble.”

“No need to worry about me, just beat him and keep him away from my kids.” said Scarlett looked sharply at Iceberg.

Then she moved to the back to look those kids. They seemed alright though the tense still look on their faces.

“Rey, Eorin melt this door! Aska give them cover! I will get rid of the dragon.” said Scarlett.

She vanished before them and at once they like heard someone has stepped on the roof above.

“Rey, Eorin melt this door! Aska give them cover! I will get rid of the dragon.” said Aska, mimicking Scarlett. “What makes she think she could easily shoo that dragon away? Did she think it was a little bird?”

***

Scarlett stood looking at the sky, blue and clear it was and the blindless sun shone behind the white cloud. Green forest and plain looks back away in motion with the rail extends to the edge of the sight while the mountain stood still watching them from afar. Everything seems fine, no sign of Wyvern nor the sound of its roar, only wind blowing against her.

Suddenly a huge shadow passed over her and the rush of the wings swept her like a tempest. To the air the dragon had returned, railing in the blowing winds along the train and upon it rode a man. Her fears were confirmed when she looked at the rider, for she noticed that the man wasn’t the Dragon Rider of Ishtar. It was a man in leather black jacket and his face looks familiar as if she was still faced the same enemy inside, for he was looks like Iceberg but older and frightening with disheveled beard and long hair.

The size and strength of the winged beast was unmatched for the lady and certainly the rider wasn’t less powerful than the ice man inside. But fear wasn’t looked on her, she stood firm and tightly grasp her sword. Then like a puzzle she turned the sword into a bow. Her hand was very deft and skillful till she only needed three seconds to transform her weapon.

“Let’s hunt!” said Scarlett, as she attached an arrow pocket on the shoulder. The arrow was odd, for it was very short, maybe at the size of pencil and consist tip and feather only. But when she drew it the wooden shaft lengthened into perfect arrow.

She pulled the arrow but the black-jacketed rider attacked her first with a flame. Swiftly she moves to evade but the flame doesn’t dispersed or exploded when it touched the ground, instead it turned into fire hound and chased her. Scarlett ran and jumped to the back and when nothing left from her exit she turned around. Fast it seemed the beast chasing her, for it was a magic that won’t stop till the flame got her and burn her in raging fires.

Suddenly Scarlett ran forward into the flame hound, wonder what in her thought. The beast leaped to her but Scarlett doesn’t evade or protect herself, instead she fearlessly sprang up to grab it. At once it burst into a great flame, blasting wild in the air like raging magic and soon it swept by the winds.

Scarlett bent down trembled and looked at the explosion on the back. By split of a second she managed to teleport forward and escaped but her hand was burnt. Great it was the flame of magic, even when she has teleported the flame spreads and consuming her glove like it was living flame. Scarlett took it off immediately and threw it away. Then she drew another arrow from her shoulder and fitted it to the string. Two Spheres in her hand was glowing at the same time, turn her eyes to be sharper, no; it was more than that – the dragon flew above seem slowing in her vision. She sprang up and teleported, and under the wings she released the arrow. So fast and strong, the arrow pierced through the wing and shaved the rider from his back to shoulder. The dragon swerved unbalance aside with a roar.

Over the train Scarlett knelt. She drew another arrow and prepared her next shot, and she peered at the woods and sky. “Come here dammit! I knew you wouldn’t fall with that.”

***

Inside, Rey and Eorin have succeeded to melt the ice which shut the exit with their magic. And while Iceberg busy to fight against Marius they were evacuating all people in the car. In less than half minute the car was empty, save only three youth and two soldiers in fight.

Iceberg’s sword was very mysterious, not only chilled to the bone but also made Marius couldn’t freely release the energy till no magic he couldn’t create. His sword was the only thing he could use to fight him.

“We have to help him!” said Rey.

“I’d love to help but don’t you see how they both fighting? Two steps from them and we must good bye to our limbs.”

“I had an idea.” said Eorin. “Cover me!”

Marius pushed back, shivering in cold with white frost spread all over his body. Iceberg on the other side smiled as if has gained the victory. But then to his surprise he noticed a gleam in Marius’s eyes. He turned around immediately. A round symbol kindled behind him, formed by many ancient letters and blazed red like flame carved it on the floor. Then suddenly it burst into a fire whirl but soon as the flame confined by space it turned into surge of flame that consumed everything in the car. The flame engulfed him right away while Marius sprang back immediately. The flame didn’t get him only touch the tip of his hair.

“Watch your magic young girl!” said Marius.

The flame has vanished but the smoke grew thick before them and clouding their vision. For a moment everything was calm there, no sound or shadow move behind curled smoke.

“Is he dead?” asked Aska.

“He had through hundred flames in Silent War. He would not dead with such attack.” said Marius.

Suddenly there’s sound of clink behind the smoke like sound of metal and glasses falling together. Curiously Rey stepped forward. He wiped the smoke and hazily he found a table lied on the floor with glass and tableware scattered. But even as the smoke grew thinner, he found no sign of Iceberg as though the flame had consumed him entirely.

“It just the glass.” said Rey turned to them.

Then all of sudden a shadow came out of the smoke behind him, grabbed him swiftly to throw him up and at once ensnares him at the ceiling with strange green gel. Then Iceberg appears before them suddenly, cloaking in smoke and looked at them with grudge especially to the girl with scepter. His hand tightly clutched the sword and strange, the ice blade glowing blue suddenly.

“Get back! Now!” shouted Marius.

Iceberg thrust his sword to the floor and at once sharp hoarfrost burst out all over the place like thousands of ice needles surged and rushed into them, but when it’s almost get them the rush of ice stops suddenly as Iceberg bent down in pain.

“Damn the girl.” cursed Iceberg.

***

Scarlett bending her bow with eyes looked at the woods far away. The winged shadow flew above the forest and it looks crossing the motionless mountain. Seemed the enemy wouldn’t let them get away, especially after her arrow scratched her back.

Her eyes gazed sharply and her fingers firmly grip the feather as the Wyvern flies by. But then a great horror fell upon her as she caught a glimpse of white light on the dragon’s throat. Once it had seen in her past, it was dreadful flame that no Dragon Rider would command their winged steed except in the extremity. Terrible and dangerous it would be, not only for her but everyone inside.

Scarlett ran and teleported till she stops on the windowless car, the second rearmost car. She stood as if challenging the enemy and his flying steed to shot at her, though an extreme fear looked in her eyes, gleamed by the white light of the dragon.

The Wyvern unleashed the white flame. It was bright like a little sun but fast like a meteor. With a flash of blinding light a great blast tore the car and smote the land to hollow. Entire train was shaken, bottles and other goods scattered everywhere while the rearmost car derailed to crash the woods.

Coldly the black-jacketed rider stared at the destruction and he smiled as if proud at the power of the Wyvern. But then to his surprise she found someone stood looking at him over the train with her red-hair swaying in the wind.

Scarlett survived and she felt relieved to see that no life scattered behind other than bottles and boxes. Moreover, it doesn’t blow where her friends were. She took a deep breath and at once all fear and tense was gone from her. This time he will bring down the dragon and the rider forever.

She drew another arrow from his shoulder and then set something at the tip. Soon the Wyvern came and flying closer, but the winged beast shot no fireball instead it blows a great breath of flame to attack her. Scarlett just smiled, didn’t stepped back or shows a fear against the infernal wave that came to her. She remains steady on her stand and fit the arrow to the string. But she did not aimed at the winged beast not even her eyes seek a spot to shot, she just bending the bow downward with strong pull.

At last, when the flame was ready to engulf her, she suddenly appeared behind the dragon, step on the air and shot the beast on the left wing. But now the shot wasn’t common arrow – as the arrow hit the dragon a giant web spread out and ensnared them, cast them out of the sky to crash the woods with the sound of crack.

The red-haired woman stood above the car with the bow clutched in her hand. Keenly she stared into the forest which looks getting away. The forest got ruined and no sign that they will rises.

Chapter 15

To the Unknown Darkness

Scarlett jumped down to the car. Then she found those kids halted behind the car door as if they’re held by something.

“What happened?”

“See for yourself!”

Rey ensnared in the green gel at the ceiling, unable to move at all except shake his head back and forth to vain. Before them Marius and Iceberg staring cold each other separated by thousands of ice needles that couldn’t be passed by, except one. Scarlett appears beside him in suddenness and swiftly Iceberg swung his sword to fend off her blade.

Suddenly the train was shaken by the great blast from behind. Both of them were fall with their weapons off, while Marius and those kids just shocked by the blast. Then three of them rushed out to see what has happened. And there, under the clear blue they saw a black winged shadow haunted them with the black-jacketed rider sat on it like reaper on his winged steed.

“Not him again, I thought Scarlett had already done with him.” said Eorin.

“Believe me those brothers wouldn’t dim their Spheres till their target is dead.” replied Marius.

“You know him?” asked Aska.

“His name is Flamberg, older brother of the ice man inside. He’s proficient in using all Spheres of fire element and his valia was the greatest among the other, that’s why he never sheathed a sword, yet.” said Marius as he thought of something.

“Any idea how we deal with them?” asked Aska.

“Why don’t you turn into Gryphonite and go fight with them?” said Eorin.

“Ten years we’re together, what makes you think I could beat something like that?” said Aska, as he pointing the Wyvern with his thumb.

“I think that’s pretty good idea.” said Marius.

“It is?” said Eorin.

“Are you mad? Few days ago I had being chased to almost death by Zimeth I don’t want that happened again by different dragon.”

“Chill kid! Just take me close to them, after that fly wherever you like.” said Marius “And you young lady evacuate all of them to the foremost, though I believe they’ve already moved with the Wyvern shooting back all the time.

“How about Scarlett and Rey?” asked Eorin.

“Scarlett can deal with him. I’m sure they both will safe.” said Marius.

Now the floor filled up with shattering ice. Scarlett tried to get up while Iceberg rose and fall. His leg wounded by the sharp ice of his own which now began to melting red due to his blood. But something concerned him more rather than ice in his feet was his ice scimitar lying beside her feet along with her strange sword.

Scarlett took both swords at her feet and with ice sword she thrust green blob on the ceiling to the green gel frozen. Rey wrapped in cold till Scarlett break the green ice and he fell to the floor with a bang.

“Are you all right?” asked Scarlett. Rey who was slumped on the floor looked up and before him stood dashing a woman in black outfit wielding two swords like heroine in the great epic.

Suddenly the windows shadowed by the Wyvern flying beside them. Flamberg was shocked when he glanced inside the windows. Looked in his eyes a red-haired woman wielded ice sword which belong to his brother and before him someone lied down with shattered ice around. Flamberg thought that his brother was already killed by that woman, he doesn’t know that the one lied before her was Rey. He was furious and mad, all the Spheres glowing on his arm as if he wanted to unleash all fire he had. The dragon he commands without a word and once again the white flare arose in the throat. This time he will devastated the train within the woman who, he thought, killed his brother.

Suddenly, the darkness came upon them and the white flare became brighter under the dim shadow. The black-jacketed rider looked up and he saw a great bird eclipsed the sun. And behold, out of shadow Marius jumped out at him, and he stabs his curved sword swiftly downward. Strong the thrust was, the sword pierced through the saddle and went deep into dragon’s back and with a cries the white flare unleashed to the bridge where the train crossing.

A great blast destroys the rail-bridge and tore the second-last car to split apart. And the last car, where Scarlett and Rey were, derailed to the edge and fall down into the ravine. All inside the car was shaken as the car bounces down until it halted by two sides of the cliff, but as it happens, both Rey and Iceberg thrown out of the windows and falling down. Iceberg immediately threw something at the cliffs and at once a great slab of ice stretched forth of two cliffs to create an ice plate. Both of them fell on the cold surface, wounded and fatigued, so fatigued that Rey slipped at the first stand.

At the same moment in the sky Flamberg has kicked Marius to fell. But Marius seems doesn’t want to give up easily, as he lying down on the wind he shoot a spark of lightning, not to the rider but to the sword which stuck in the saddle. The Wyvern cried in pain which filled across the sky and with that the winged beast swirl down unsteadily. Into the woods the dragon fall and lied over the broken trees with wings outspread.

The great eagle broad his wings and gave his back to catch Marius. Aska flew over the train which has slow down its speed while Marius looked back towards the broken woods. No sign of Flamberg nor sound of his dragon but he knew that the enemies wouldn’t give up till they finished their target.

***

Scarlett stood with pain. For a moment she was confused about where she is with all the darkness before her eyes. Then she recalls for what was happened before, an hour ago she was sitting at the table with three teenagers and peoples with cheerful faces and bright as the morning light that pierce through the windows. Until one man came and tried to kill them, assist by black-jacketed dragon rider which turned everything into a mess. Now the carriage looks deserted and gloomy, all ruined with melting ice and dust. Chairs and tables stand on her right and she stood on no floor but at the frame of broken windows. Suddenly she’s surprised when looking down to the ravine below. Two figures stood over a crystal clear as if they’re floating between two cliffs, and she saw one of them shot fireballs toward the other.

Down there Rey tried to fight Iceberg. Many flames he shot but that man easily repel his magic with just a hand as if swaying small insect. From how he shoot Iceberg realized that the young man in front of him was an amateur, no he was less than that, he was just a kid who could be pushed around. However it doesn’t made his desire to kill become lesser. No matter who he are, whether pros or just little kid he wouldn’t hesitate to kill them. From his hand a long chunk of ice sticking out like blade, rough and irregular but sharp at the edge and point.

That man stride like an angel of death who would drag him into the dark and cold world. He was trembled, whether by the cold ice he stepped on or by the tremendous fears he felt. For the first time in his life he ever felt close to death. But he doesn’t surrender easily, all lightning and fire he cast to stop the enemy but all were in vain. All his fire nullified in his cold hand and the ice he wielded seems sharper as he got closer. Rey didn’t know what he had to do to stop the man in front of him, till he stumbled and saw a knife sticking in the cracked surface. Saw that something come up to his mind, down he look at the ice surface which look like glass floor then he look behind. What he will do may stop the enemy but it will also endanger him if he made a mistake. He then took the knife and hiding it behind his back, slowly he retreated to make more distance from Iceberg till his preparation complete.

On the other side Iceberg just smirked seeing his opponent cornered. And like he expected that boy desperately throw a glowing knife at him, and his throw was frail and lousy so he just step aside to evade it. But strange, the young man before him doesn’t look fear at all like he showed before instead he looked at him with courage, and it wasn’t the courage by despair like people who trying to survive on the verge of death but it was a true courage, a courage that arise by confidence. Suddenly he was startled by the sound of boom behind him. It was little blast just like big fireworks, however that’s not something he concerned about but the crack spreads under his feet which at once broke to bring him falling down. For a second everything as Rey expected till the crack going further and chasing him. He tried to run but it was in vain, just few steps and the ice he stepping on brought him down into ravine.

However, when death seemed certain for him, under the interstice of the sky Scarlett flew down like angel down from heaven to save him. She dives fast among cliffs and winds followed by tens of tons carriage above her.

Even as he falling down, even when the death waiting below, his pride won’t let him to lose in the hand of a boy. And so with all dignity remains on him Iceberg gather all his magic into one palm and created one blue crystal of frost as the last present for his enemies. He threw it upward into a boy upon him, it glowing soft in blue but the air surround become heavier and colder as if there’s ethereal snowstorm.

But in the slick chance and time – before the blue crystal touch him, Scarlett managed to capture Rey’s hand and at once bring him teleport with her. Both of them vanished in the air before his eyes and the blue crystal hit the falling car to the entire car rapidly covered with great hoarfrost like thousand of frost blades spread on it.

“Hell we go!” said Iceberg with bitter smile looked at the car which falling toward him now.

***

All of sudden everything turned dark. The face of red-haired woman under the gleam of sunlight and beautiful blue suddenly turned into nothing but blackness, and at once he loses her hand and rolled up to hit something, don’t know what it is but it looks like rotten wood and damp. Soon he felt the ground was shaken, and yet it was not earthquake but like something hitting the earth as though there’s meteor fall far away. After that he felt soft tremor on the ground beneath him with the clanging sound of metal and clinking glass around him.

“Scarlett! Are you there?!” shouted Rey.

“I’m here.” replied Scarlett. Her voice came from behind him.

Scarlett then used one of her Sphere and so the glowing light of the Sphere illuminate the room till appeared on their eyes an old kitchen. Various cookware of metal hung on their right, shaking and made clinks, so was the glasses and ceramics, it rattling as the tremble seems unending.

“Where are we?” said Rey.

“House maybe and looks like it has been long abandoned … gosh it stinks.” said Scarlett while covering his nose.

The red-haired women then took a Sphere from her pocket. Something like tulip was sealed inside and in the dim light his eyes like caught some luminous spot inside it, wonder what creature sealed inside. She detached one Sphere in her gauntlet and replaced it with that Sphere. Then she raised a hand and suddenly a blue orb of light kindled out of her hand, floating over her palm like a big blue firefly and illuminating them in the bold darkness.

Later they exit the room and walked down the corridor. The floor look made from marble, broken vases and pieces of sculptures scattered on the floor. The walls are filled with various painting and unique chandelier, old but timeless. And each door had carved with the finest shape though few have moldered.

That house was spacious enough, long way of corridor and many doors, seems they weren’t step on the common size of house but more to mansion. Suppose not abandoned certainly it was very beautiful and luxurious.

Later they found themselves in the main hall. It was great in size and contained many different types of ornaments, relics and artwork, though few of them become nothing but ruin and shards. Red carpet, worn and dirty, filled with mud and dirt, covered the entire floor and lined along to the wide curved staircase which lead to the balconies on the upper level. Facing the entrance there’s a large painting in the wall, a picture of fat man with red chevron sitting on the chair of luxury. Although it was only painting in the dimness but his eyes and grin shows that the man in the frame has a bold cunning on him.

“This is strange.”

“What’s strange?” asked Rey

“This house.” answered Scarlett.

“Except dirty and ruined, I thought there’s nothing strange about this house.”

“Not that. We fall off from the cliff right?”

“We did, even the feeling still on me.” replied him, as he couldn’t let off his tense and tremble.

“Did you ever see a house within ten meters when we fall?” asked Scarlett.

“No, why?” replied him.

“Silverhare Sphere that bring us here could only do teleportation as far as ten meters, couldn’t be more than that. But now we stranded in a big haunted house which impossible to exist around the cliff.”

“Then where we are now?”

“Don’t know but we’ll find out soon.”

Chapter 16

The Lost City

The train had stopped and the crowd ran out of the train to see what have happened. The bridge has broken, one car torn apart with the part still left on the train and one other falling down to the ravine, fortunately all passenger there had been evacuated.

Suddenly they startled by piercing voice at the sky, above them a giant eagle swoop down with a man on his back. Aska flying low very close to the ground and with sudden move he spins to drop Marius down. Then he flying up to the sky with a long shrill piercing the winds and again he swoop down with the wings stretched as if cleaved the ravine. Deftly he flew between both sides of the cliff which getting narrowed for him.

As he flew between two sides of the cliff suddenly he transformed into Amarok. The big horned-wolf jumped down on the edge of the cliff, swiftly and agile as if he was against the gravity. When he reached the bottom of the ravine he found the wrecked car, chunk and shards scattered all around it and the ground covered by melting ice. His wild eyes searching around the car, and suddenly he ran with worry as he saw a hand beneath it. But soon he felt relieved, for the hand was too big and muscular both for Rey or Scarlett. However his heart felt uneasy once again as something troubled him, for he didn’t also find the signs of both of them.

Fear and prejudice fell upon all passengers especially those who sat in the same car with Eorin and friends. They talked and asked one another about what had happened. They told about an ice man with his ice scimitar and wolves of his summoning, their finger pointing to the sky telling how Wyvern flew above them and cannoned their train. And like the one who carried a problem on them, they also pointed at the young girl whom stands at the edge of the cliff while she calling her friends.

And when Eorin looked down into pressing cliffs and a seemingly bottomless ravine, suddenly Aska jump out of the cliff. That huge wolf make people ran in panic and they’re crowding to get into the train first.

“Did you find them?” asked Eorin with worry.

The great wolf like vanished into dust or turned into haze of blackness, so was in their sight. At once appears of it, a young man with spiky hair. Passengers whom has been scared and panic get calm when they knew that it was just a beast shape of the Volk tribe, some of them even shouted ‘It’s just Volk!’ to relieve the others.

“I couldn’t find them, they’re gone.” said Aska.

“What do you mean? Are they dead?” Eorin looks worried.

“I don’t think so. I just found that ice man at the bottom, piled by the carriage. While Rey and Scarlett they’re gone somewhere.”

“Gone?”

“Their smell … I don’t know, it’s like their being vanished in the air.”

“They’re might be have teleported somewhere.”

“I knew that. Their smell vanished in the air maybe because both teleported while falling but that doesn’t mean they’re vanished forever till I can’t smell them again. No matter how far they would go I assured you that I could smell them with Amarok. But this is different, they’re vanished as if they teleported into another realm.”

“Do you think they’re still alive?”

“Maybe and most likely so, but whatever happens to them or where they are now it’s likely they did not have a better fate than us.” said Aska “Geez, let me wrong as usual.”

***

Scarlett felt moist as she touched the knob, reminding her that there is nothing here except silence. And when she opened it the only thing they found was stretching darkness beyond the front yard. No wind was feels on their face just stuffy air in their breath.

Scarlett raised a hand and that orb of light floating high into the air. At once it burst into countless number of fiery light, scattered all over the place like a swarm of fireflies, invaded the darkness and uncovered what lies before them. Then to their amazement they saw a city ruins before them, gloom and mysterious under fiery light. The terrain looks bumpy and almost all structures and houses look skewed, even some of them like swallowed by earth. Most of the building still intact and undamaged, few were destroyed and some look weird because it looks like piling up each other. Wonder what happened to this city in the past.

They were surprised and amazed by what they saw now but on the other hand they also horrified to imagining that their fate will be same as this city, alone in this silence and darkness, only waiting for death and their bones will never be found by anyone.

“Underground city?” said Rey haltingly.

“No, this is not underground city it’s just a common one, was.”

“How did you know?”

“Did you see that?” said Scarlett, pointing to a ruined tower at the end of their sight.

“It was looks like spires.” answered Rey.

“If you’re living under the rock canopy, would you build something tall like that?” said Scarlett. “Not only that, most of the house we found here had a roof, it was usual thing if you had to deal with sun and seasons while here there’s only darkness and cold.”

“So you mean this city was on the surface before?”

“Yes and somehow it was sunken underground and become what we saw right now.” said Scarlett “However this ruins looks accumulated.”

“Accumulated?”

“Dunno, it just I felt that some building had different structures than the others. Like there were three civilizations, three towns piling up here, maybe.”

“Or three ages.” said Rey.

Scarlett looked at the boy beside him, there’s a feeling of worry when she heard his words. “Maybe,”

Rey and Scarlett walked down to the ruins. It was lonely place, no lives or moves around them just abandoned building and no sounds except of their feet. But somehow they sense an eerie feeling from unreached darkness far there. Suddenly Rey get stumbled by sunken debris and Scarlett helped him. And as he stood they found themselves in front of a statue, it was slanted and leaning on some falling debris and there was great crack on the stone legs like it could split at any time. Then to her surprised, Scarlett bent down and looked at the symbols on the pedestal.

“It couldn’t be.” said Scarlett look astonished.

“What’s wrong?”

“These symbols, I’ve seen the picture of it before.” said Scarlett. “Some archeologist discovered a relic with symbols like this carved on it. Old speech they assumed it, dated before the reign of Astarte.”

“Which means?”

“Which mean it was very old, about six or seven thousand years old or even older than that. Too bad I couldn’t read it. In fact no one in our time could, for this is a dead language.” said Scarlett, as he wipes the dirt on the pedestal and revealed the symbols as a whole.

Rey bent down in surprise. The unknown symbol now as a whole, somehow could be recognized by his knowledge as if it was a common letter for him.

“The statue was b-b …” said Rey, as he wiped the remaining dirt on some symbol, “… built to commemorate Belthazzar, Hero of Acronesia.”

“Did you read that stone?” asked Scarlett wondered, “How?”

“I was wonder for myself since comes here. I’ve been able to speak your language. And somehow I could understand all the words and letters like I read my own, including this.”

“Since came here?!”

“Well, since comes to Ishtar.” said Rey.

Scarlett knew the boy was hiding something even it looks clear for her than Eorin did. But for now she more wondered about how he could read these symbols.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” said Scarlett, pretended nothing strange about him. “Did you say Acronesia?”

“Well, that was written here.”

Scarlett rose slowly and trembly looked up at the dimness above with dread and shock.

“What’s wrong?” asked Rey curious.

“How could you read a dead language but didn’t know something widely-known like Acronesia?” said Scarlett still looks upward. Rey doesn’t know what to answer and before a word spoken from his mouth Scarlett speaks again with blue fiery kindled over her palm. “It was a lost city of famous tales and legends. There’s no actual record about this city but it always described as a civilization with advanced technologies, far more than we had today. And some even told that they’re the one who invented the Sphere.”

“So how it lost into underground?”

“Swallowed.” answered Scarlett, as she let off the blue flare from her hand like she was released a huge firefly to fly away.

“So it was sunken underground.”

“No, I said it was swallowed.”

“S-swallowed? By earth?” asked Rey.

“No, Terranvord.” said Scarlett. She looks more uneasy as she stared above.

“Terran … what?”

“Giant worm … very very giant.” said Scarlett.

Rey immediately follow her eyes. There far above him he like saw a dome of pale flesh with the veins as big as a pipe, looks purple by the blue radiant and extends to the unexplored darkness like it was giant tunnel.

“Now I’m really far from home.”

***

For many miles of rail everything around them seemed quiet, only whispers of voices about them and a murmur of prejudices. And not only suspicion in the eyes but they also keep a distance, they prefer to take a seat away from them, close to the entrance if they could be, for peril never stopped for the hunted, so they said.

Aska bowed his head and sometimes he looked out the window. In his mind, perhaps two of them were suddenly appeared behind the windows, tried to chase the train with tired face. But still the window only shows a faint reflection of him with empty plain and forest slowly away to behind.

“Anyone ever had bad experience in their trip.” said Marius, who suddenly joint at their table.

“Yeah, but not everyone deal with someone who frozen entire cars and barbecued by fire breathing dragon at the same time.”

“We have fought together like old comrades, yet we don’t know each other. I’m Marius Centrinus, green infantry 2nd grade.”

“I’m Eorin and he is Aska. We’re both on vacation.” said Eorin.

“Marius huh, for an Ishtar Soldier your name like someone who came from Azgalor.” said Aska with suspicion.

“I’m a Homefarer. I lived in Namtar and bear the same name since I was five, since our King Virenas and their President Theodorus were good friends.” replied Marius. “You said you’re on vacation, where’s your destination?”

“We’re …”

“We’re going to Kilvert, north of Khatar.” answered Eorin quickly “How about you?”

“I stopped by this train, just new guy on the new post.” Marius smiled proudly while showing his uniform.

Looking at his green uniform they both know that Marius nothing more than a low-ranking infantry. So was his lost sword in her remembrance, it was standard sword of Ishtar Soldier, one leaf carved on the wooden hilt without any decorative nor tassel to represent special degree, nothing special on it. However, his Spheres and his style on the battle had shown that he was more than he look, without regards the fact that Iceberg and him knowing each other like they had their battle unfinished in the past.

“If I may know what kind of trip do you have?” asked Marius again.

“It just little trip in day off.” answered Eorin.

“Day off?” laughed Marius “Looking at your age, I’m sure you’re from The Grove. And I know these day kids like you must start to reopen the book for final exam that will be held in less than a month.” said Marius. “Actually what are you doing till professionals like Iceberg hunted you to kill?”

“I even thought that he came after you, considering you know each other.”

“If he’s trying to kill me he just needs to swing his cold sword. But instead of that he freeze entire car just to shut you all and don’t forget that he summon his puppies to prey you.” said Marius. “Me, I’m just a man who stood between you and him.”

“Then how about Scarlett, how do you know each other?”

“We’re just a friend in the Grove, like you both. She had more progress on her career while I’m just lazy guy,” said Marius. “How kids like you could be along with her?”

“She’s … our instructor, and we’re on study trip.”

“Just four of you?” asked Marius.

“Yeah, we’re just four. Do you mind with that? This is modern day.” said Aska.

Marius laughed again.

“What’s so funny?” asked Eorin.

“You know, we could be like this all the way up to Khatar, or we could start to trust each other.”

“Then why you don’t start first?”

“I simply would. But for now it’s not me who draw those assassins and brought danger to this train, it was you, or yours.”

“Believe me. If I knew what they’re after we will told you but fortunately we don’t.” said Eorin.

“For now I considered that you’re telling the truth. Besides Scarlett wouldn’t bring you in if she knew those assassins would join this trip.” said Marius. “Maybe an hour we get into Khatar. Get some rest.”

***

“How we could be inside the giant worm?” asked Rey.

“When we falling I’m used Silverhare by instinct, at that time the Sphere would react itself to found best space to teleport. If I may guess this worm might be slumbered around the ravine, covered by cliff and unnoticed by anyone or things for years or even more than century. At that time this womb, this belly or wherever we are was the safest place for us to teleport.” said Scarlett. “It’s possible that the train crashed down to the bottom, and like alarm it had woken it up and then this worm moving underground. Since it was gigantic, one stretch of its muscle could expand about meters or even tens, deprived the effective range of Silverhare to teleport us back into sunlight. It’s been positive that Sphere Silverhare of mine didn’t detect any space outside after first quaver.”

“So we are trapped?”

“More to buried alive in the center of nowhere.”

“That’s very good news.” said Rey. “Is there a way for us to get out of here?”

“If this worm comes to surface we could have, beside the maw was as wide as Sneakers field we could get out easily though the possibilities was very small.”

“Really, how small?” asked Rey.

“Almost zero if I could say. From the legend I know, this worm spent most of the time in slumbering and only comes to surface once in every thousand year or more, at least it was that had been recorded. The oldest record was the tales of this lost city that mostly estimated about 4000 or 3000 years before Common Ages. Legend said the city was swallowed entirely but I supposed only little part of it like our ground while the bigger part the great worm had destroyed it. The second record was about 1000 before common ages, appeared in small farm outskirt of the little city of Valgorod which now is known as Midgard, the capital city of Federation of Azgalor. The third one was appeared in about year 2000 in the city of Nuria, devoured few blocks. Now it made sense why these ruins look jumbled and accumulated. These ruins at least, consist of three cultures from three different times.” said Scarlett.

“How about the fourth?” asked Rey.

Scarlett turned and looked into the shadows surround. She stood alert and tense, the sword she held but nothing came out of the shadows, only silence under fainted light.

“What’s up?”

“No, it just my feeling.” said Scarlett still looked at the darkness around then she turned to Rey. “Well, the fourth one was happened about 160 years ago exactly in year 4964. This worm comes to surface outskirt of Annadora, the city of Illitea Nobledom, and that’s when …” Scarlett paused.

“What?”

“That’s when Lord Azriel came into the world, born by this worm, if it could say so.”

“Yeah, I’ve read about it. I thought it was just another fairy tale in your world.”

“Our world?” said Scarlett wondered.

“No, I mean hard to believe that there’s a man who was born of worm, even if it was gigantic one. But since we’re in its belly I don’t think it was just fairy tale to scare a little kid anymore.” said Rey, then he thought of something, “Hey how about the fifth? You said that this worm comes to surface in the span of thousands year but the fourth was happened about hundred years ago. So if I’m not miscalculated this big guy was come to surface about less than two centuries.”

“That’s what had been recorded. This worm is quite big so if he comes to the surface surely everyone could see it appears, and if they were not, this worm would always leave a trace, a large and deep pit hole that could last for several years. So if you ask my opinion that record was pretty accurate.” said Scarlett “As for your question the fifth was happened about thirty years ago and indeed, I think the same about you, that it was an anomaly. The site was close to Runeglade but no one seen it in live, only a great hole that the deepness lead to the darkness. At that time, the Continental War was heating up so no one conduct deep research but to determine whether that hole was constructed by man or done by nature, and this big worm came out to conclusion.”

“Do you know what makes this worm come to surface in a closer time span?”

“I don’t know, no one knew. After the Battle of Elderon was ended, many scholar of Runeglade conduct extensive research on the hole but till now they don’t make any progress on …” Scarlett paused looking around with tense and at once draw her sword to alertness.

“What?”

“Do you hear something?”

“No, why?” said Rey.

Her eyes and ears still fixed on the darkness. She felt there’s something moving closer, hiding behind the shadows beyond fiery blue and surrounds them in great numbers. Scarlett stepped forward, slowly, leaving him few step behind in silence and incautious.

Suddenly something leaps out of the darkness behind and bites Rey on the shoulder. At once he screamed in pain and panicky spinning to nowhere with hand crept to the back to reach the creature. It was long and slimy with pale skin under blue light, the more he tried to get rid it off the more the pain he got. With swift move Scarlett had come behind and with one quick slash of sword she cut it. The lengthy part of it was writhing on the ground while its head remain on his shoulder.

“Calm down!” told her while hold his shoulder.

He calmed down immediately, yet he yelled in pain when she revoked the creature on his shoulder, for the bite was quite deep. Now they stared at strange creature, though it was quite familiar for their disgust. By the knowledge of their own it was looks like bloodsucking worms, a leech with slimy pale skin but had size to their arm, only mouth appeared on it with tiny sharp teeth filled the mouth and four mandibles covered in blood.

Soon fear fell upon them, for now they appeared in greater number, slithering in swarm like the plain have pulsed. Tens of leeches leaping up and attack them both. Scarlett move swiftly to evade and at once slashing them, great movements and precision she had but looks graceful swaying her sword as if she was dancing with it.

On the other side Rey seemed had troublesome to protecting himself, not only he inexperienced in such situation but also he had possessed no weapon. The only thing he did was kicking those which were near to him and grab them to throw before they had bites him again. As a result more leeches stick to him this time from shoulder to arm. But Scarlett deftly aid him by cutting them off, though the head-part still stuck on him.

They’re coming more and more. By sword and energy shots she took 3 to 5 of them in a row. While Rey in his confusion and worried couldn’t even spark a flame from his hand, he just did evade them like before. At the end he had cornered and accidentally nudged the statue of Belthazar to it fell and ruptured. But then, of all despair and hardship that befell on him he found something among the rubbles, something he very needed at this time – if it was as he thought. He grabbed it immediately and swung it to the leeches surround. So heavy it was till he pulled away by his own swing, but it wasn’t mace or any heavy weapon. It was a sword but the rubbles still cemented on the blade and made it heavier than common, and the hilt was long, exceed his elbow.

But no matter how weighed it was, the urge to survive gave him power to lift the sword and swung it, though he moves like mad – if not get the empty ground then hit the ruins. But after many swings the sword seems got lighter. Hit after hit, the rubbles on the blade eroded and gradually show the original shape of the sword.

The blade was curved and slender, like a sword forged in the eastern land where the first sunrise shone upon cherry blossom. The blade had length at man’s arm but the tip was almost even as if the sword was broken or something. And since the hilt was very long – only few inches shorter than the blade, the sword was very light, even lighter than Tyvelon he had ever held. Even so, it seems doesn’t affect his ability. He was still strike like mad, sometimes hit but more often missed.

Slowly but sure they’re overwhelmed and the swarms seem never ran out of number instead they waved endlessly. Now around them they found the leeches were already writhing all over the place with creeping sounds in their ears, from ground to ruins, under the light and behind the darkness. Looks like their live will end in this darkness.

But suddenly their eyes caught a gleam of light from below. To their surprise they found they were bordering by a circle of fire and at once it erupted into blazing wall that protecting them from the swarm.

Rey looked at the flame in amazement and grateful, wonder who cast this magic. The flame remembered him of the girl who saved him in the forest, but impossible for Eorin or Aska to be here or even another else, for this place was nowhere under the surface in a long time.

The fire wall then splitting and stretching, create a path to somewhere unknown. Without a thought Scarlett runs along the fire lane followed by Rey behind. Few leeches are still on their way but she slashed them easily. And after meters of running eventually she found out where these fire wall leads to. Looked in their eyes something like a pavilion at the end of the road, made of metal it seemed as it glinting by the firelight. And underneath it a common house submerged in half with rough cement patched on the windows. The flame was blazing mad and leapt furiously around the area as if there’s a dome of fire protecting it. In weariness they climbed the house to the pavilion. And when they set their foot on it, they found a hole at the bottom. Nothing they could see, for only darkness lies there and waiting them.

“Get in!” said mysterious voice echoed from the hole.

With doubt and fears they jumped down. And once inside they found closed door with dim light inside. Suddenly above them turned dark and the dome of flame they see no more.

“Step aside now!” said the mysterious voice again which sounds came from the closed door.

They step back immediately. And suddenly the darkness above them turned bright, flooded the room with blue strong light. Somehow they felt their bodies got heavier and the air like singing in their ears. Then to their surprise a blue crystal grew rapidly from the hole above, it look solid and gleamed in faint blue.

“What is this? Crystal?” said Rey as he tapped the crystal.

“It is, it just I don’t know what kind it is and how it could be formed rapidly like Eorin’s ice.” said Scarlett as he touched the blue crystal. “Well, whatever it is, it will hold them to get in.”

“Yes, but it also hold us inside.” said Rey.

“Yeah, so we double trapped and buried alive. What could be worse than this?”

“Come on in!” said the mysterious voice again.

The voice was come from the wooden door on their left. The frame was illuminated by the dim light within, and strange odor and smoke trying to scramble out of it. Dizzy and nauseous they were just by inhaling it.

Chapter 17

Uncounted Years of Madness

Aska slept with his head lay on the window, he trying to relax but he couldn’t. He sleeps and then wakened only to close his eyes again as if he was twisted by waking and dream. Sometimes he found himself in the bad dream but then he looked at the clear sky and mountains but even so the world seemed gloom for him and bedevil him to close his eyes again. While Marius rested himself by leaning on the seat with eyes closed, he looked calm as if nothing happened in the last hour.

Only Eorin still opened her eyes, she drink continuously since the train went forward, wonder how much water she had drank but the table was damp by the dew of the cold glass. The girl toyed with ice cubes of her own magic and sometimes she glanced at Marius. There are many questions in her head about him, about who he is or about how he well-known by both friend and foes.

“I know I’m attractive, but do you need to look at me like that?” said Marius with eyes closed.

“Who’s looking at you?”

“But you did, do you?” Marius smiled.

“Actually, I’m more interested in what you’re hiding for. Besides it’s not difficult to remember someone in green uniform especially when there’s only one we met within few hours. I knew that you following us since the station but I don’t know what are you after. And I’ve seen that your eyes focused most to the enemies so I thought that our safety wasn’t your primary concern, yet it seemed that you need us alive to going forward. Why?”

“Miss, I am a soldier of Kingdom of Ishtar and I was sworn to protect the people.” answered Marius casually.

For a while Aska slightly opened his eyes when he heard Marius talked but immediately he fell asleep again, for a second…

Suddenly a loud boom wakened him and with tremendous shock he sprang up, thinking that the enemy still chased them and attacking again. “What’s that?!”

“Khatar, we’re arrive.” replied Marius.

Aska looked out the window. There, in the distance, he saw a shadow on the vast green, a dark moving spot, marching orderly like black squares over the green field. Dozens of flags and banners were on the plains with tents that look like a row of white cones. And near the fringe of the forest a row of wheeled-shaft sequentially sparks a flame and with that there’s a sound like a growl of thunder, loud enough even at the distance till wakened Aska in surprise.

Far there in the sky they saw flying shadows with the wings like a giant bat. For a moment they stared it with fear and worry, for still fresh in their memories the winged terror from the sky that split their train with the white flare and almost kill them all. But those Wyvern just passed by and they saw the rider was clad in red armor, a Dragon Rider of Ishtar. They fly above the green field with many scarecrows set up on it. Then with swift movement they stoop to burn all the scarecrows below it.

“Combat practice?!” said Aska with awe.

“This city never cools the heat.” said Marius.

The train now passed the suburb area, a little part of the town outside the walls separated by wide canals. The little town looks green and beautiful, tall buildings were rarely seen but they had many gardens and green space with monuments. The town itself more look like lovely residence or the place the tourist wants to visit for rather than staging point for war campaign. Tall trees were hedged along the canals and mostly they grew to bend down into the waters. On the canals there’s only canoes and little boats, some peoples even fishing on it. Bridges connected the little town to each sides of octagonal wall. On the intercardinal sides the bridges were small, only pedestrians and cart looked there but on the four cardinals the bridge were bigger and solid with railroad on it. And as the train crossed on it the city walls loomed up like stone hill to their amazement.

“Amazing isn’t it? How the war has shaped this city?”

For a second or two they passed the tunnel under the wall. And then under the sunlight they saw a vast town stretching protected by the great wall, but the wall in the northeast was half-crumbled. And far there they saw it, stood menacing and dark at the center of the city a great tower, strongly built and thick like unshaken, and all like built by steel. It had four big shafts, three of them pointing up to the sky while one has down to the north. A canon it was, the biggest one they ever knew, so great it was that it seemed could make a hollow to the mountain on the north.

“The Gun Tower, built by Nebolessar the Third in the year 4932, after the wall on the west side had finished. Once I was here, when I was child. All canons pointing to the four, mighty and proud, like nothing could stand against them. And I was there when it shot, the bang like thunder above your head and the town trembled like there’s sudden earthquake. Then I was like saw a dawn far there, red and bright stretching in the west while the night above us still black and filled with stars.” said Marius with a bit anxiety on his face.

Later the train stopped in the north station. The station wasn’t as big as the one Lucretia had, and it served routes to the north only and arrival from the east. It was afternoon and the sun began to run into the west but from where they stood they see the sun eclipsed by crumbled wall, a scar of war to remind the peoples of Khatar of their sorrowful times.

“Where’d you go now? As you heard from Scarlett the West Rim were in fears and panic, it isn’t safe out there now.”

“Thanks for your advice, Marius. But we had some place to go.” said Eorin.

“All right then. If it is your decision I can’t hold you. But if I could give you advice, better take the road through the forest even it will take you further, for now the clear sky haunted you more.”

“Thanks for the advice.” said Eorin. “Good bye Marius.”

“Good bye miss,” Marius gave salute to Eorin with manly posture and strapping, but smooth. “And good luck.”

Marius walking away without looking back at them and in the blink of eyes he vanished among the crowd. For a while they stood looking for him, many of green-armored they had seen but none of them was him. They later continued their journey into the city.

The city of Khatar was quite interesting and lively, as if the battle was never wounded this city. Soldiers wandering around like common people just distinct by fashion and armor. No fears or tense between them, some of them do social work to repaired a wrecked roof, they said some foolish Dragon Rider did this when nightfall, few of them took their part time job by standing in front of building with plenty of florin inside. While a soldier look arguing with someone in the street, cards scattered around them, it seems that someone had cheating on the games. The inns and hotel seemed only vacant by tourist or peoples who hold no sword and shops lined up as far as their eyes could see, especially those who provide weapons and Spheres. Certainly she will be glanced to a unique-carved scepter with purple jewel on its tip if only her mind wasn’t focused on their missing fellows.

And apparently not only them who confused and worried over someone because not far from where they stood, at the hall, peoples huddled in the crowd only to look on a notice board. They all look worried and panic looked or fingered each name on the list, some of them even get angry to the officer in tears.

“It’s far worse than we thought.” said Aska.

“Then let’s do something to change those faces shall we.” said Aska.

***

Eerie feeling and curiosity fell upon her as she grabbed the old knob, the same thing also felt by Rey, even more. The light of the door frame obscured by moving shadow inside and they heard nothing but faint sound of the metal, wonder who was behind the old door. Under the land the great worm slumbered for decades, it’s very impossible if there was someone living inside. ‘Or the voice wasn’t from human? Ah no used to think about it. Human or another else I will face it,’ said Scarlett in her thought.

She opened the door and some smelly thick white smoke blow out of it. Bad odor stung their nose, but rather than smell they more concern about the one inside, the black shadow that stood among white smoke which covered him. Both of them walked slowly into the mysterious figure. But suddenly the winds blowing behind them, all smoke moving like living ghost, gathered in the man’s hand and at once condensed into small pebble to throw.

The mysterious figure doesn’t show his face and gave only his back to welcome them, but his shadow stretched into their back as if watching them from behind. The clothes he wore were dirty and soiled, almost like a relic than old cloth. His hair was brown, tarnished and grayish by ages. His hands were thin, like bone wrapped by dilapidated old skin. So many scars looked on him from arms to the neck, like something spiked him hundreds times. Remind them about slithering horror outside, wonder how he could survive all this time.

The figure then turned and looks at them, and as if the nightmare of childhood comes true, the persona of evil wizard now stood before them. His face like a mask carved from dying wood, look so old and weathered. Crooked nose and long dull hair add a creepy image of his face. Good or evil they didn’t know, but they like saw a bit of hope glowing behind his dimmed pale eyes.

“Welcome!”

One word of greeting followed by few seconds of silence makes everything more horrifying for them. And suddenly he laughed grimly and showing his brownish dirty teeth.

“Please sit down!” said the old man, chuckled with a hoarse voice.

Hesitantly they both sat down on the greasy chairs. Eyes and brows become their speech in that silence, for they do not know what they should do or what to speak of.

“Please join for the meal!” said the old man, as he put old cracked plate with smoky brownish fried-food served on it. They both wondered what kind of food is that to cause bad odor like this but the longer they looking at it the more they realize what it was, for nothing could be cooked down here except the swarm outside. “You don’t want to eat?”

“No, I’m on a diet.” replied Scarlett, as she trying to hold her queasiness at the fried-leech.

“Women.” said the old man with black look on her. Then he turned to Rey and gives sharp glances. ”And you?”

“Thank you for your hospitality but I’ve already had grilled fish on my last menu.”

“Really, what’s the sauce?” asked the old man.

“Well, I don’t know what it called but it was sweet and bit spicy.”

“Really?” said Morran, for a moment he looks excited but in short moment he turned gloom again. “It doesn’t important now, down here this is the only food we have. Not as good as the last food you had but after 3 week you will get used to it. At the end your hunger beat your tongue.” said the old man, as he ate the fried leech.

When they saw the old teeth bite that oily fried leech, somehow they felt there’s something in their stomach trying to rushing out till a bit of sourness tasted in their throat.

“May I know your name sir?” asked Rey. However the old man didn’t respond a word. Then he tried to ask once again “Sir …”

“Before you asked someone’s name you should introduce yourself first.” The old man continued his meal without glancing at them.

“Forgive us sir! My name is Rey and she is Scarlett, we came from Lucretia, the capital of Ishtar. May we know your name sir …?”

“Just call me Morran of Runeglade.”

“Runeglade?! It couldn’t be.”

“What? Why?” asked Rey curious.

“Could you tell me how you get in here?” asked Scarlett.

Morran didn’t say a word instead he was grimaced at the question. At once Scarlett holds the sword behind her back to be wary of something unexpected. There was a silence again for a while, but all of sudden he was laughing again.

“Haha, finally someone I could tell my story on. Finally I had friend to share everything here, ha ha ha ha!”

Although he displayed a fearsome of dirty teeth and old lips, but they felt something different on his laughter now, it has sounds cheerful but the light on his pallid eyes glowing sad as if he tried to laugh at his own sorrow. Looking at that, Scarlett loosened her grip on the sword.

“Where should I start? Well at the time … I was walking up on the hill, a place outskirts of the Runeglade. At the time … I was there in the pursuit of tranquility and take a delight in the miraculous view of Runeglade from hilltop. Such refreshing was needed by a man in productive age like me, plus at the time … my office and activities was drained my sanity a lot.” said Morran, he act like yelling loud but no sound came of him.

“No doubt about it. That’s why I put myself on action not calculation.”

“Then I got there, at the hilltop. I see Runeglade from there, so beautiful so charming like it was center of civilization. And the Beacon of Wisdom was so amazing, the light ascended to the sky as if it was pillar holding the heaven. I was like saw the center of this planet.” Morran paused, remembering his hometown. “But suddenly my eyes caught a gleam behind. Then I turned around, and there in the valley I saw something like a magical symbol.”

“Magical symbol?!” said Rey wondered.

“Yes, magical symbol, of summoning. And very large, the largest symbol I’ve ever seen, as if a giant mountain stroke the valley behind with mighty pen and ink of lava. I don’t know what kind of sentient would be summoned with a giant symbol like that till …”

Morran paused for a moment to eat fried leech on his dish. He felt cold and trembled through his body, and yet it wasn’t fear of something but fears by the bitter memories of the first day he was belong to everlasting darkness. His hand shivered as he put the food into his mouth. Although they considered it wasn’t something delicate on their fresh tongue but that old man ate it very heartily a minutes ago, voracious like a gourmand of leeches. But now he seemed loss his appetite, wonder what on his mind to make him so. Even Rey and Scarlett was carried away by horror on his face, they felt horrified as if they could see for themselves what horror in his mind and memories, for a moment … until the fried leech squeezed by his dark teeth and the fat of it pouring from his old mouth to made them want to vomit once again.

“What, happened then?” asked Scarlett with a bit feeling of queasiness.

“I ran down the hill to see what was happening. And what I saw later was made my heart skipped a seat.”

“You mean ‘skipped a beat’?” asked Rey.

“No, skipped a seat, I spoke it right. How your heart was when your seat on Sneakers match lost by fat man, you shocked, angry but too dreadful to close to tell that it was your seat.”

“I understand.”

“I’m telling a story here, so don’t cut it with your ‘unuseful’ question.”

“I understand, sorry sir.”

“For now I hope you learned the word ‘silence is gold’.” Scarlett whispered.

“What are you talking about behind my back?”

“But sir, we talked in front of you.” said Rey.

“Oh, right.”

They both stared each other, to think that they found themselves in awkward situation but bit funny.

“Would you continue sir? Please.”

“At the time … this giant worm … I don’t know how to explain.”

“What happened?”

“The whole gigantic body was sunk in the ground. Only his maw wide open with circular rows of sharp teeth, yes … sharp little teeth at the distance but when you see it closer …” Morran pressed his teeth and for a moment he frozen on creeps as if that face was really a wooden mask. Rey get himself closer to that face but Morran suddenly surprised him till he screamed. Morran laughed loudly while banging the table as if this is was the funniest moment in his life but then he crying, either by sadness or maybe he just feel how it was laughing with someone after a long time. Then with a deep sigh the old face turned expressionless and still, until Scarlett continue to ask.

“Wait a minute, this worm just remain still with his maw opened wide to the sky?” asked Scarlett.

“Yes, I was like seeing the entrance to the underworld, the pit to the deepest hell. At the time … I felt strange, from what I read about this worm I’m sure it was quite aggressive on the surface. But what I saw that time was shake my belief, it was so calm, no it was frozen as if it was controlled by someone. At the time I could imagine who had such power to summon and control the Great Ancient, till I saw him …”

“Who?” asked Scarlett.

“The Dark Lord.” answered Morran

“Dark Lord?!” said Scarlett curious.

“He’s flying out from the dark pit, soaring to the blue sky with the wings of shadows, so natural and elegantly he was as if he and the great worm was bound by genesis.”

“I don’t understand what he saying.” whispered Rey to Scarlett.

“He’s playing sage,” Scarlett whispered to him then he turned to Morran. “But the Dark Lord was born by this worm right?”

“No, no, no, I’ve heard that theory. But what I had seen was different…, Lord Azriel like not paying respect to this worm nor even touch it, as if he himself disgusted with this creature.” Morran looked up at the gloomy ceiling. He tried to remember how long he has been here but his mind couldn’t figure it out, either yesterday or forever. Then he continued. “He seemed had no connection at all with this worm, at that time I thought that Lord Azriel was the true Archeon while this giant worm was just the vessel of his own.”

“What did you see about him? What he’s doing?”

“When he came out … strange, he brought, no, but levitate a body. It was flying like hell gave back something to this world.”

“A body?” asked Rey.

“Yeah a body, living or dead I do not know, too far my sight to determined that.” Said Morran, he paused for a moment then he continued “And then, when I thought I had hidden and far enough …” Morran paused again, there’s a slight tremble in his voice. “Suddenly all cold and tremble came upon me. My heart pounding and I felt breathless. Far away I saw the Dark Lord had no sight on me, yet I felt his eyes surround, watched over me. I didn’t know what happened next, few seconds was cut off and suddenly I fell before him. Dark and tall he stood, covered by flame of shadows, the black flame that had no heat nor gives a light but all surround become rotten. I know that place well, green and live, but the rottenness had consumes the grassy field slowly and turned it into dead barren. I tried to fight back but …”

“But what?”

“I don’t know, I felt old more than I am now, fatiguing I was only by raised scepter and cast a common magic. But it was not limited me on the fight except when all Spheres of mine are out of my mastery, it seemed all my magic were against me.” said Morran “My defeat was a certainty, but as I bowed before him I glanced something behind him, something that he brought from the underworld of unknown. It was a corpse, pale skinned and black vein, no life or soul I could sense on it. My thirst of knowledge made me more concern about the corpse than if I am would became one, it was male in Illitean fashion.”

“What’s so special with that corpse?”

“Except for its durability I do not know. For someone who had dead hundred years ago he looked fresh like dead yesterday. That’s the last thing I saw, in the defeat I could see nothing but the light that faded away and what I remembered next was I lays among the ruins.” Said Morran “I don’t know how long I’ve been here. If a day, I had cut off my beard and hair for forgotten number. And if it’s been age I only spent one starless night here. Do you know how long I’ve been here?”

“Long enough to make a history.” answered Scarlett, all her feeling about him, prejudice and disgust now turned into a feeling of pity.

“Well, I don’t realize if that long, it’s like I’ve just been trapped here. Maybe I was too excited with all this ruins till I forget everything. There’s many scripts and engraved words buried here, old and forgotten, an ancient knowledge that beyond the reach of our histories except become myth or fairytales. Of all, Acronesia had passed down many of their knowledge, from their civilization till the legend of Belthazar and the Great Ancient. I’ve spent all my ages to read their histories, yet I could never complete them.”

“You could read the dead language too?”

“I could not at first, Acronesia was too old and surely their language was dead, no one could read them over millennia. But I have mastered old language of Ashtor, a native language of Ishtar Empire at the first reign of The Queen. Ashtor itself was considered dead too before we found the Temple of Prudence two centuries ago.”Morran explained “After many steps of fighting and hiding, after many moments of horror with that leeches, I’ve locked myself in some place, dark and broad but close tight to hear the sound of slithering no more, even after few steps and stumbles. Then there I was, sat alone in the darkness waiting for lifeless. At that time, death was better choice than survived for nothing. But then, as I hum waiting for the reaper to come, my hand touched something. It was solid and bit pointy, smooth at the surface but little rough on the hand.”

“What is it actually?”

“It was crystal and not a common crystal but a Sphere.”

“A Sphere?”

“Yeah Recall Sphere if I could say, of old shapes. At first I don’t know what it was, just little thing to held when do nothing or an inanimate friend when no one lives to accompanied you.” said Morran “I don’t know how long I sat there, but I think it was long enough till I couldn’t feel my own feet. And with all the black that my eyes could only see I thought about Runeglade and their light, the light of The Beacon that illuminate the city and the light of knowledge that illuminate mind and heart. At that moment, my desire of knowledge made the crystal glows and without any will of mine, I casted a fire magic and at once kindled the floor to formed red lettering.”

“What’s written on the floor?”

“Twenty words of ancient, half was written in the letter like I saw in the ruins while half next was written in Ashtor that I’ve had known well. Then I’ve realized that I just found ancient lexicon, a missing link between Acron and Ashtor speech. It was glorious moment of my life. My spirit was like kindled back by the red glow on the floor.” said Morran looks excited than before. “I casted my flame once again and glows the floor with red lettering, revealed one word to another and resurrected the dead speech to my knowledge. So excited I was till I forgot the time and stomach, the leeches outside was already gone away, seemed they were tired to wait for me, ha ha. After I mastered the old speech of Acron, I hunted for their words and I learned much about them, their histories and civilization, their myth and origin, their legend and fairy tales, their technology and architecture, their politic and social, their …”

“This would be long.” said Scarlett.

“It would be longer if we couldn’t find way out of here.” replied Rey.

“… their hobbies and habits, their…”

“Umm, excuse me sir, but do you think there is a way to get out of here?” asked Rey.

Morran was laughing out at the question, “Do you know, the question was always there in my head since Azriel threw me into this black hole.”

“I thought so.”

“Rather than thinking of how to get out of this place which is vain, better you make a baby.”

“What? What do you mean?”

“You’re men and women, still young, why do not you try to make the child and build family here.” said the old man chuckled.

“What?!” they both exclaimed in unison. Then they looked at each other, for a moment they feel mutual attraction to each other, but then the feeling was defeated by their own egos.

“What?”

“You’re just kid.” said Scarlett.

“And you’re too old for me.” Rey replied.

“Hey, I’m still 26.”

“Look 28 and half for me,” said Rey. “Besides, I’ve got a girl in my place.”

“Really, then who’s her name?” asked Scarlett with probing tone.

“Her name is Melody.”

“Well, judging from her name I’m sure she was the most popular girl in your place, but the way you act I’m sure you’re just sitting and looking at her from far desk. Even I’ll bet she didn’t ever notice that you alive there.” said Scarlett teased him. It seemed she doesn’t want to lose against a young boy beside her.

“That’s not true, he saw me … every day.” Rey argued to defend himself.

Suddenly Morran stood behind them, round his arms to their shoulder and tighten them. Both Rey and Scarlett give all effort to hold their breath and vomit as his smell attacked all breathing target.

“You two are lucky to be trapped down together. Not like me who all this time lived alone in this place and it makes me mad.

“I believe it had already.”

“I hope the two of you will produce many children and we will turn this silent grave into crowded place.” said Morran with the laugh of happiness “If we have to we will stay in the city ruins, we create the barrier of eternal fire to protect ourselves. Then we will restore it and makes it magnificent as ever, even more.”

The old man then snickered relentlessly, for he realized that from now on he was no longer alone, both live or die. He laughed and cried at the same time, either happiness or sadness felt by the old man he doesn’t know but Rey felt the skinny hand on his shoulder getting warm.

“Don’t misunderstanding, we just …”

All of sudden a tremor came into the place, and like ship being hit by a big wave the ground beneath their feet tilted. All things on the room slides to the left including three of them, Scarlett herself almost got hit by a barrel, if she didn’t swiftly evade.

“Are we going to the surface?” asked Rey.

“I don’t think so.” said Scarlett.

The tremor grew more terrible and as if the earth rolled, the room turned upside down. The walls cracked and with the sound of creak the wooden floor above them ripped apart.

Suddenly it stopped. For a moment everything seemed fine and still, till they realized the room now gleamed in dim blue light. They looking up and saw clearly the blue lights were flickering among blackness. No roof to protect them now, the quake has turned the house upside down and split it. And with gaping hole above them the leeches start creeping in.

“No no no, it couldn’t be happen.” said Morran.

“We’d better get out, very bad idea to stay here.” said Scarlett

“I don’t think go outside are better.” said Morran.

“You die with sword on your hand or do nothing on your stand.”

“Is that trick question? Because I holding a staff.” asked Morran.

The leeches fall down from the hole above and went slithering toward them.

“I don’t see a reason to die here.” said Scarlett as she clutched their hand and at once took them to teleport.

Presently it brought them outside and to their surprise they saw the terrain outside have changed entirely. The quake has reshaped the city ruins. Some buildings have changed position like fallen tower which now leaning high to the opposite side and hold by a building beneath it, some being rolled over or break apart like Morran’s shelter and not few have completely destroyed. While the ruins on the rearmost have sunk by mud as if great landslide fell on that place. Scarlett couldn’t even see the large mansion where they first landed anymore.

Before long the ground has covered with writhing swarms, leap and bite to welcome them immediately. Scarlett and Rey drove them with their sword while Morran using his magic. So great and wonderful the flames he had casted, shot the leaps with high precision or combust them with the magic of formless flame to get rid of them which had sink their teeth. Of all madness of both minds and habit he had, a greatness still shown on him. Might be he was a great Magi at his time and honored among others in his place.

“Get to the tower now!” shouted Scarlett

They turned and ran, go through broken building and jumped over fallen ruins. Scarlett led on the front with high pace but she keeps his eyes and ears to both of them behind. Morran be the last but he could keep up with them with Rey before him watching his shadow. Suddenly, as he running the ground beneath him broken with sound of crack. It was wooden floor and the old man fall down with one leg sunk in it.

“Scarlett!” shouted Rey.

He turned and get to Morran immediately. Rey tried to pull his leg out but didn’t make it, meanwhile the swarms getting closer to them.

“Leave me kid! Go! Now!” said Morran.

“I won’t leave you. Hold on!” Said Rey, tried to release Morran’s leg.

Scarlett stood watching them with upset. “How could you two playing a drama in this situation?” said Scarlett, grabbed their collar and at once brought them teleport away.

Presently it brought them on some mounded ruins. Morran laughing, spreading and moving his legs like a wiper then he kissed his left. “I thought I wouldn’t see you again.”

“Well that works too.” said Rey.

“Get hurry!” yelled Scarlett.

They ran immediately. The leaning tower drew near and loomed up before them, piercing into the darkness that wasn’t touched by floating blue light. The path seemed harder than before, for the ground was less solid. If not stepped on the slimy mud they get their feet trampled on those soft and slippery leeches. They climbed up immediately. It was less-challenging for them to climb it up than get into the tower itself, even that old man think of it as child’s play and in just a minute they have managed to get on the top.

They stopped and looked down. And as they thought, with their slippery body the swarms couldn’t reach them at the height. Morran yelled with staff in the air to tease the swarms below.

“We don’t even have an inch away from the danger and he dancing in victory.”

“Maybe he was happy right now.”

“For what?” asked Scarlett.

“I don’t know. Maybe it was us.” said Rey. “After years in the darkness he had us to accompany him. No regret or loss for him now.”

“But I don’t intend to loss here now.” said Scarlett. Then he turned and walked up to more height. Far below she saw the ruins had already filled with swarms like sea of maggots covered the grounds. Slipped and they’ll be history.

Suddenly, as she got on the top, she sensed something, like some consciousness whispered inside her mind and shows some space behind the flesh roof above them. Scarlett looked up, high enough it seemed but still at the range of her teleportation.

“For a moment I want to believe there’s sunlight there.” Said Scarlett sighed. Then he turned to Morran whom still dancing in happy.

Suddenly a violent shock jolted them. But it wasn’t come from the monster rather the tower itself was shaken by sudden falls. It seemed the tower couldn’t withstand on that way in a long time.

“Get my hand now!” shouted Scarlett.

Both of them ran to her immediately. But as they got her hand she paused in doubt, thinking if it is best decision to teleport there. She doesn’t know what lies there. Might be other perils awaits them there and maybe more dangerous.

“What we’re waiting for?” asked Rey.

Suddenly another shock came again and they stumbled. Scarlett looked up at the top of darkness. For now whatever the place is or what lies behind it, it is looks like heavenly snare than falling into those swarms. Quickly the red-haired woman clutched tight their hand and then by Silverhare Sphere she brought them teleport into that space.

In a blink of eyes they found themselves in a red tunnel. All like made up from flesh and muscle, pale and pinkish but it gleamed with purplish by the blue flare on her hand. No dirt or ruins beneath their feet only soft red tissue which sucks their feet as if they stood on the rescue cushion.

“What is this place?”

“You’ve never been here?”

“I can’t move in flash like you lady. For years of my life I just stayed in the same area.”

Three of them continue to walk down with Scarlett led their way. Old and rancid they smell no more on that place but the air was stuffy as they have to fight each other only to breath. And they felt the ground and wall bit shaken, yet it wasn’t quake or tremor that they felt, rather it was like strange thrill fills all over the place.

They keep walking and walking, revealed one shadow to another but everything looks same as if they walking on the same place. But the more they go forward the more they sense something weird, like a soundless thing in the air vibrates their eardrum.

“Do you hear something?” asked Rey.

“Yes, I was like heard my own thrill, or fear but strangely I do felt none of it right now.” answered Scarlett, she keep aware on the shadow before them. “Just keep walking.”

Then after few walks, suddenly as they steps to some place, where the ground felt more solid but slimy at their feet, the radiant light on her hand unveiled a wider shadow. To their surprise they found themselves upon some cavernous chamber, large enough and look exotic as if it was the lair of monster from outworld, only the chamber itself seemed was the monster. The chamber construct by muscle and sinews and some viscous substance, it feels thick and slimy at their feet. And more to their amazement, they saw the core of monster’s life, a giant size of heart hold at the center of chamber.

“Is that … a heart?” said Rey in amazement.

“I think so.” replied Scarlett. ‘But this is too easy.’ said Scarlett in her thought. Countless number of leeches they met in the city ruins in the stomach. And now they were stand and looked at the heart, the core of its life, yet no danger or threat came about them. But indeed there’s something that worried her. Rather than the giant heart, she more concerned about the slimy pods above surrounding the heart with human pale face on it. All the six faces closed their eyes but somehow she felt they’re looking at them.

Suddenly one of the faces opened his eyes, white and old eyes, as if the life had long gone from him. Then he spoke to them with hoarse voice.

“Stop there …” said the face in the pod, “…or die.”

“Who are you?” asked Scarlett.

“I have nameless since the origin of mine.” said another face in the pod.

“The only name of mine was come of your tongue. Terranvord.” said the old face in pod.

“Who are they?” Rey whispered to Morran.

“I don’t know. I just met them like you.” said Morran in low voice.

“They’re just ‘entity’, an embodiment of mine.” said the woman face in pod.

“So Azriel was one of you.” asked Scarlett.

“Azriel! Don’t call that name inside mine. That filthy little bastard ruined mine and stole one guardian of mine.”

“Wait a sec, so the Dark Lord wasn’t part of you?!” said Scarlett, look surprised and curious.

Chapter 18

The Twin Flame

Marius turned away from the road and walked up to the northmost of the city, where the battles in the past only make a crack to the city walls. It was yellow old picture of the city, the old part of Khatar that has never changed for decades since Continental War. The area was well and clean though not many crowd here, only peoples passed by without giving their eyes, for they had little interest to visit or stopped by.

However Marius halted by some ruins there, a hotel if that what it was, leaving desolated for many years. Neither roof nor windows has left, only old wall that survived through many rains with moss and vines settled on it.

Marius entered the ruin, the sunlight shining freely around the room, yet still felt gloomy for too long in desolation. The grass and shrubs grew amongst broken floor as if someone preserved them. And there he found someone, and old man wearing shabby gray robe sat on the moss-covered rubble of pillar while he brewing water.

“You guys really need to decorate this place.” said Marius.

Knowing his presence, the old man gazed at him in the blank for long time, long enough to makes anyone stood in fears to leave. He gave only muteness but then he raised a hand. Marius caught a glimpse of light behind the sleeve of slummy robe. No fire or any magic out to attack Marius but a shadow suddenly grew behind him.

Marius turned around and looking at the horror that grew tall behind him. It was like carnivorous plant but huge enough to swallowed two men in a snap. The stems are long and thick as common tree trunk but lithe as the plant could weave like big serpent.

“I really hate this.”

The giant plant snapped and gulped him instantly, quick and without resistance. And there the old man poured the hot water into the cup as if nothing happened.

***

“Azriel … that man of wicked and conceit was never being of mine nor casted him out as you said human female. He suddenly appeared inside mine.” said the female guardian.

“How could be?”

“Just like when you teleported human female, you just appeared inside mine.”

“Wait, how do you know if I could teleport? I believe you couldn’t see us at all.”

“Couldn’t see you inside indeed, but every vibration of every person could be felt by mine. Even one’s strength will made different vibe.” said the thin guardian.

Stocky guardian immediately continued the words. “A man was suddenly appeared inside mine when I attacked of what they called Anadorra.”

“At that moment 542 people are inside and mine could felt the vibrations of each person, especially when they trembled with fear.” replied the young guardian.

“However as mine attacked them inside, suddenly one man appeared inside. His vibration was so different from the others, fear none and strength great, he killed half of mine by one magic, old and dreadful one, so I let the Unknown One out.” said the woman guardian.

And old guardian then continued “Later, the same man came again, grew stronger his power and he represent his himself by the name Azriel as he stood on your spot now.”

“And he brought thereafter the old one beside yours into mine.” said the guardian with helmet before them.

“What he wants from you by came inside you?” asked Scarlett.

“His motive was unclear but he stole one guardian of mine.”

Then their eyes looked at the empty pod, a pod without face in it.

“Do you think it was the one you saw? The body Azriel had brought.” asked Scarlett.

“Most likely so.” answered Morran.

“For what Azriel stole one of your guardians?”

“His purpose with that of mine was unclear.” answered woman guardian.

They were silent for a moment thinking of something. Then Scarlett continued, “Could you help us to bring us back to the surface?” asked Scarlett.

“Why human weakling like you should be obeyed?” answered young guardian.

The old guardian immediately replied “Besides, I need two of yours. The female was fit to replace the empty slot which stolen by Azriel and the fresh meat to replace the old one like mine of this.”

“Wait, how about me? Don’t you need me?” said Morran innocently.

“Then we shall trade, our life for yours.” Said Scarlett as he pointing her sword to the heart but strangely there’s some invisible power protected the heart.

“Do you think I wouldn’t protect the life of mine? No steel can cut through it and no magic can destroy the barrier of mine. Here all mine to control.”

The sixth guard was then out of the cocoon, they look like ordinary people but their eyes pale and hollow like was long dead. And from their wrists stick out a serrated blade of bone. Their ability is not so tough, just like a common soldier. But how many times they attacked them they seemed deathless, even when Scarlett beheads one of them they still move freely to attack them. And they got more troubled as the leeches came out. They’re look different than before, dark colored with red stripes, smaller but much faster that even Scarlett herself as the swiftest among three got overwhelmed against them.

The leeches bite the old man everywhere. Few stuck in Rey’ arm, cut but still life to move and bite him deep. And Scarlett got wounded against the guardians. Rey looked around. On the dim blue he saw black leeches swarming endlessly from the shadows and among that there were ceaseless guardians. Morran casts a magic but his flame was diminished and Scarlett took more wounds as he got fatigued. Rey shouted mad and swung to everywhere. So exhausted and mad he was that his swing dragged himself to lunge forward to the heart and suddenly, without expected the sword pierce the barrier and stabbed deep in the heart but his hand slipped off the sword and he stumbled and hit Scarlett to fell on her.

Suddenly a great tremor ran through the whole place with the loud groans thrilling in the air, it sounds hoarse and terrible like screams of thousands people who died inside. The six guardians collapsed straight away, so was the leeches, they squirmed as if they were burnt from inside. The whole place was shaken. The pale flesh strained and trembled, all the wall all the ground seemed to swallow them. And wailing scream was echoed in the shuddering air, forced them to close their ears.

The scream stopped suddenly and they felt the tremor weakened slowly. They got up and stood trembled, tense and fear still upon them, and neglected wounds began to feel sore. Rey and Scarlett looking each other, a feeling of glad looked on their sweaty and weary faces. However Morran stood looking at the heart and only show his back to them. His eyes fixed and his gesture still as if he was enchanted by something.

They both wondering what made him so, and slowly they stepped aside to see what’s behind the old man. Surprise and wonder came upon them as they saw something stuck in the big heart. It was a sword, long and broad as if it could slay a horse with single hit. Black and gloom it was that even the light of blue flare could not glinting on the surface, for it was not made by any steel but the stone of earth. And abstract carving was graven in the middle of the blade. No other sword had pierced the heart other than broken sword which Rey hold before as they could remember. Either someone switched it or the sword itself grew into another shape.

Rey surprised and wondered, so was Scarlett though she was less curious for he always heard about shapeless blue sword from his uncle while Morran had different look than the other. His pale eyes got brighter in the dimness blue, it seemed he knew what it was but he couldn’t make sure of it. With excitement Morran trying to touch the sword, but not yet his bony fingers touched it a mysterious forces stroke him to him repelled.

Morran tried to get up but he fell. Rey round his arm immediately on his shoulder and help him up. Even he could felt a great tremble from that old man, wonder what happened to him.

“Obviously it was not unusual weapon.” said Morran. “No wonder if it could break the barrier and stabbed the heart. How do you have that sword kid?”

“I found it in the ruins.”

“That’s strange.”

“What is it?”

“The sword was ‘protected’, that’s why I thrown away when touched it,” said Morran.

“Protected?”

“It was ancient technique and rarely used these days.” said Morran. “An object, weapons, Sphere or jewelry we give some barrier on it, so other than the rightful owner everyone who tried to touch it would be thrown or even worse, they could be burn, sting or felt an excruciating pain.”

There was a silence for a moment as they looked at the sword.

“I’m all right. You can let me go.” said Morran. “Take your sword kid!”

Rey stepped slowly into the sword but he halted his hand right before the hilt, and a doubt and fear fell on him, feeling that he would be repelled like Morran had. Then a sudden courage moves his hand to grab the hilt. And strange, nothing happened to him, no invisible force stroke him or made him thrown away. He drew the sword and swung it. But something was strange on his feeling, the sword was just slightly heavier than the broken sword he had before while it was quite big and made of stone.

“That’s strange.” said Morran.

“What’s wrong? He just could grab it while you rejected.” asked Scarlett.

“He found it in the ruins, doesn’t he?”

“Yes I did.”

“If he found it in thousands-year-old ruins, how the kid who was born less than two decades could be the rightful owner?”

For a moment they paused and wondered, but the eerie silence of the chamber reminds them of the true horror about them.

“We’ll save that question for later, we still have an unresolved problem, our way out.” said Scarlett.

“Maybe we should go back to the city ruins. Maybe there’s something we could use to bring us to the surface.” said Morran “The leeches must be dead by now, so I think it was safe down there.”

***

Marius found himself in the wide dazzling chamber. Stringy pale root was above him and beneath him was a circular symbol with fir-tree painted inside. There he saw two soldiers guarding the only door in the room with a woman sitting at the table beside them.

Marius walked to the door while rubbing his face with a tissue. “Hey Ellora, can you ask the boss to think of a way other than Chomper secret pass? Every time I passed it, I feel …”

“I do not have the authority and it is not my business. If you didn’t like that way I can tell you the secret way to another world.” said the woman, pointing her finger down.

“You still mad about Palisador?”

“It just common trip, nothing special about it.”

“Yeah sure.” said Marius smiled.

The door opened and Marius stepped into a place like an underground office. Built in the cave, the roof above him was rough stone but the entire floor was flat and covered by white marbles, the light glimmered on it and so everything looks bright and clear. In the middle there’s huge glass cylinder, looks sturdy and solid as if not hanging at the roof but grew of it. Marius looked at it, chairs lined-circular around the table but no one was there right now.

“You’re late. He’s already gone.” said a big man, who suddenly stood beside him. His face was big with neat haircut and his style was clean like a man who always behind the desk. “What’s delayed you?”

“Four Brothers, Iceberg and Flamberg, and they brings flying steed with them.”

“Why they’re here? Did they want to settle an old vengeance with you?”

“I don’t know why they came here Grunt, but I think they hunt for the others.”

“Who?” asked Grunt.

“Three students from Grove, and Scarlett with them.” answered Marius.

“Scarlett? What she’s doing here? Palace was miles away from here.”

“I don’t interesting about what she or they doing here but I’m more interested about what they have till Four Brothers chased them.” said Marius. “There’s two left from them now, could you send someone to look for them and if possibly resend them both back to Lucretia.”

“Two left from them? What do you mean?”

Marius then told everything to Grunt about what happened on his journey here. About Scarlett and the foes they have faced and about how the train split apart by the great blast from the dragon and brought both friends and enemies down with it.

“So Scarlett …”

“I don’t want to think about that. I knew her, she talented for cheating the death. Just do what I asked to you.”

“Ok, I will send someone to pack them up and next morning they will found themselves on the bed in the dorm. Just tell me how they look alike.”

“I’ll give you their face.” said Marius. “Any new information?” asked him.

“Yes. We’ve received word from Volk tribe, from Agra the Head of Forest Guard. Do you know him?”

“Not really, just seen him once with Sahagin. I heard he was an Aesir when he was still young.”

“He has reported that great number of Raider was move northwest, might be half of their population. They don’t know what have lured them here, there’s no battle here to be raided after all, not yet to move them in such number.”

“What’s Raider do with all of this?”

“Maybe you should check this.” said Grunt.

Then he brought Marius to a small office, it looks clean and compact. A plant grows tall in the corner, almost touch the roof. Grunt took something out of the drawer then he gave it to Marius.

“Like you see few of our fallen comrades got sliced, five aligned-slices, Raider claws. So we conclude that they took a part on this.” said Grunt.

“Maybe, but they don’t take the bigger part in the death of our friends.” said Marius while examined the photo.

“What do you mean?”

“Do you think our sentinel would easily killed by Raiders? Need someone at my level to take our friends down. Raider had no skill to beat them except in the great number but our friends only had one five-slice on the back.” said Marius “Our friends had fought with Blitzberg of Four Brothers and these Raiders just hunt them to death when they were trying to survive.”

“Four Brothers in this, how do you conclude that?” asked Grunt.

“Three-pointed star wounds. This wound came from three-edged blade and the only one I knew who wield such sword was Blitzberg.”

“I never knew about that.”

“Nobody knows except you had fought him and alive.” said Marius as he thought of something “Cancel my last request, let me catch up those two younglings. I think I will found something interesting if I catch them.”

“Then what do you need?”

“Sword of course, a royal standard, mine was taken away by the Wyvern. And give me something special to hunt flying beast.” said Marius.

***

The sun escort them to the west since they drove from Khatar, the sunlight breached the clouds and obscure the gray mountains at the distance with the golden curtain, and the green plains stretching before them and flickering in yellow. More than hour they rode from Khatar to that plain, Eorin took a lead galloping her horse at a good pace while Aska follows behind with smaller horse.

“And you claimed the fastest rider in Vindhavar?” Eorin sneered while left Aska behind.

“That’s because the old man gave snail horse to me,” answered Aska.

“Don’t protest, this is what we’ve got for that price, I had to pawn my Sphere to rent these horses and it was the one which had healing abilities so from now on let’s hope that nothing bad happen to us.” said Eorin

Suddenly, as they rode with confident and spirited, a huge shadow flew straight over their head as if the nightmare has return. The horses were neighing with frightened, reared their feet and jolt the air and Eorin almost cast from the saddle.

“Not him again”

The Wyvern gave long cries, loud and frightening but sounds cold as if it was not a winged beast over the sky but untamed steed under the spell. Wyvern was then turned around, shadowing them like raptors on its preys. They sped into full gallop but how fast they could be on the plain, the Wyvern seemed already had them on its claw.

Suddenly a flame blast before them to the horses fell and casts the riders into the ground. Aska immediately get up and sprang to transform into the great eagle. He flew high swept off the wind and swift as an arrow, stretched the wings proudly like the legendary bird. But Flamberg was the great master of his dragon. He could bring the Wyvern even without orally commanded as if they are one. Forged by the winds the breath of fire blew like flame saber in the sky, even as he could swerved away from the flame but the searing wind have felt on his feather against him. And he got more troubles as the rider casted rapid fireballs on him like rain of fire.

By heat and inevitable fire the great eagle got defeated in his last swoop. He fell into the ground and the shape of great eagle faded into helpless teenager. Eorin ran down to Aska immediately, he tried to fight back against Flamberg but the air has already conquered by the black-jacketed rider while none of his magic could reach the air, even to touch him.

The Wyvern then swooped down and hovered just above them with dark wings flapping slowly, graceful but terrible, shadowing them in darkness and despair. And the rider sat high and might on his winged steed, looking at them with scornful.

“Give me the Sphere!” said Flamberg.

“What Sphere?”

The scar and loss of the last battle drove him into vengeance. For now killed them will pleased him more than retrieved what he after for. But the flame would only give them painless death. He thinks something wicked for their death, something that will put them on eternal torment to their soul after he took it and enslaved it.

But as Flamberg prepared them for the death suddenly they heard a quick beat of hoof in the distance. Faint and far off it seemed to them a black rider rise up from gently-sloping area of the plains. A quick shot of arrow came out of the rider, passed over their head at glance and swallowed by the shadow of winged beast upon them. It was just one shot of arrow, could not killed the beast in such size not even wounded him to fall. But the shadow of winged beast now has fiery glow beneath the wing, and suddenly the light within the arrow sparks into a great bolt of white flash, stroke them like a lightning and then to the earth the dragon fell.

She looked at it with amazement. The shadow of flying beast has passed away and their fear conquered by hope. Everything happened so quickly and before she realized the black rider was behind them, sat proudly on his black stallion.

“Marius!” Eorin look glad of his coming.

Marius immediately jumped down and ran over them with a bow clutched in his left hand. “Are you alright?”

“We were alright. Thank you!”

“Too quick for it, I just stunned the dragon to fall but the rider will rise soon with his flame.” Said Marius, stared at the dragon which slumped on the ground. Then from the fallen dragon they saw Flamberg rise up, black and stout with double sword on his hand.

“Stay here!” said Marius as he drew his sword.

They ran into each other and swung their sword, it clashed with the sound of rang in the air. For a moment they stood face to face veiled by their swords which shimmering between their eyes. Flamberg scraped his swords and the spark of it burst into flame wrapping his sword. Then he attack in spinning move like he was doing a fire dancing, beautiful but deadly.

Meanwhile Aska have regained his consciousness. He felt pain in his entire body and it seemed his back was broken.

“Are you okay?” asked Eorin.

“Not better than twisted by Aikonost serpent. My back, like horse tramped on it.” answered Aska.

A spiky-haired boy then sat up, helped by Eorin. Faintly in the distance he saw flashes of light moving and spinning like fireworks and not far from there he found the winged beast lied still like huge rock among the plain.

“Is that Marius?”

“He came at the right time, huh.”

“Not at the right time for me.” said Aska holding pain.

Flamberg swung down his swords and the flame which wrapping the sword unleashed and transformed into two infernal hounds. Both the flame beasts ran swiftly toward Marius, the grass they have passed burnt to black and behind them Flamberg ran with two swords shone sharp. But Marius didn’t step back instead he sticks his sword on the ground and choke both the flame hound with bare hands. At once the flame hounds blast into greater flame and raging like flame of hell torment him.

Suddenly the great flame shrunk as if some power gathering it, and at once it turned into firestorm attacking Flamberg. The flame surged on him and consumed him and after few seconds the flame vanished, leaving Flamberg lied helpless on the blackened ground with burned red skin. And there, Marius came out as a victor with smoke all over his body.

“You was lucky to had Sphere Salamander to resist the fire, otherwise you would instantly cremated.” said Marius.

“Bhayu?” asked Flamberg with faltered voice.

“Yes, the wind guardian of the south.” answered Marius. “It gave us the ability to create tiny cyclone but had high pressure. Wind elemental isn’t much useful in combat since it couldn’t hurt the opponent nor do any damage, but it would be great if combined with other elements … or we could take advantage of enemies attack, like the one you cast.”

Marius bent down and talks to Flamberg, “There’s some strange incident happened lately. Some villages attacked and peoples there were missing, all of them. Few of my comrades had been sent to investigate this but none of them succeeded, all of them dead with your brother’s mark on them. Now I met two of you here, I don’t think it was coincidence. What you guys doing here? Who’s hire you?”

“We’re not hired. We swore an allegiance to him.”

“Who?”

“He’s the one who bring back the old terror, spreads the fear upon you and stole your peoples when the darkness rose. Now our army has completed and we will sweep entire West Rim to solitude.” Flamberg laughed grimly. “I will tell you where the next scream will be heard, consider this is last gift for me.”

Marius got himself closer and Flamberg whispered something to him.

“Can you catch the night? Can you save all of them?” Flamberg laughed again. “Now do what you have to do, be my reaper Marius!”

Marius took his sword. For a moment he stared at him coldly, no anger no pity look on him, then with a great strength Marius thrust down his sword, straight and quick. But no blood has spilled by the sword, instead it was damaged his gauntlet to detached roughly all the Spheres into the ground.

“What have you done?! Kill me!”

“I would do it in pleasure even I care not about my honor for killing someone who had powerless, for by our reckoning your existence was quite dangerous. But I wouldn’t do that in front of them, I shall not show them an execution.” said Marius, as he sheathed his sword.

“If you don’t kill me, one day I will come back and get my vengeance!” Flamberg cried with anger.

“You wouldn’t” Marius bent down to take a Sphere on the ground but then his eyes fixed on something. “I said I didn’t want to kill you in front of them, doesn’t mean I let you to live any longer.” said Marius as he took something from Flamberg. “Charon huh, so this is how you control a dragon, by put an illusion on it? You know, the dragon will wake up soon and since it no longer under your control, well imagine yourself.” said Marius put tomato on the Flamberg body.

“Damn you Marius!” shouted Flamberg.

“If I were you, I’m not going to shout like that otherwise the beast will wake sooner.” said Marius as he walked away from him.

“Come here coward! Fight me!”

Flamberg keep screaming and cursing endlessly but Marius choose to ignore it till the voice swept by the sound of rustling wind.

“What’s wrong with him?” asked Eorin

“Half-cooked syndrome.” said Marius casually.

Marius whistled to the horses. Eorin leaped immediately to ride the horse while Marius put Aska into saddle by force as if he was luggage.

Suddenly they heard the sounds of roar, far enough but its wrath carried by running winds to makes everyone trembled with fears. The dragon has awake from the illusion, now it’s devoted to no master but its own instinct. No friends or foe in its vicious eyes, neither good nor bad had regard against the rage of its flame. The Wyvern was however firstly interested at someone who lied around the black ring of grass, and soon the beast recalled him as someone who had wronged it in the past.

“Better we go now.” said Marius, as he looked back and soon he leaped into his horse.

“Wait don’t you want to see this?” said Aska, with face down he tried to look at the dragon.

“Son, just look at the National Gaiagraphic.” said Marius “And try not to get fall or I wouldn’t pick you up.”

They both rode away. Aska looked back into the beast which seemed getting away and got smaller. Its head shaking as if it was devouring something, no it wasn’t, for it was like ripped wrathfully on something.

“How did you know we’re here?” asked Eorin

“I’m just passed through.”

“Just passing?”

“Not really. I knew youngster like you would never listen to the older one, you will pass this open field without realized that Flamberg might be shadowing you up there. So I decided to catch you up.” said Marius “She much care about you, I don’t know what to say to her if I let her kids die before my eyes.”

“Seemed you had long story with her?”

“Not long enough, just few months in Silent War. But her sword and Spheres always had for us and that bound us more than time.”

Eorin laughing though there’s concern in her eyes.

“What’s so funny?”

“No it’s just … we just knew less than 24 hours.”

“Yeah, and she said hello with piercing ice.” said Aska behind.

“Is that true?”

“Yeah we began with fight. But the funny thing is I’m worried about her now but at the same time, I don’t know, I just felt to believe that she would come back along with my friend and we will have more stories to tell.” said Eorin.

“You’re lucky, me on the other side had bad ending with her so I thought we wouldn’t have another one.”

“Love?” said Eorin.

“No, complicated.” answered Marius. “Your friend needs help. There’s a village about half-hour here we could ask their help.”

Chapter 19

Before the Darkness Come

Scarlett and those guys returned to the ruins and they were stood amazed to what they see now. Swarm of leeches lies before them, unmoving and lifeless, filled all the places as far as Scarlett’s light could touched the darkness. They have leeches on their feet in every step they had. They knew they were numberless but they don’t think this much.

“Well at least I don’t need to lure them anymore, hope they would not rotten.” said Morran “Do you know son, how I fishing … or maybe ‘leeching’ those leech exactly?” said Morran grabbed Rey beside him. Scarlett leads the way and seemed she wasn’t so interested in or concerned about Morran’s babble mumble.

“Ummfft no.” said Rey, as he quickly took clean breath as possible as he could.

“You want me to tell you?”

“Well okay then, how?”

“Don’t force me to tell ya.” said Morran with high tone.

“If that so I wouldn’t force you.”

“Don’t be bashful if you want to know it. We’re friend, my confidentiality is yours, so I tell you my tips to lure and catch them.”

“That’s would be great.” said Rey, trying to look interested.

“First, let’s called the leeches Leedya, derived from my ex-wife’s name Lidya, for they both have same characteristic, a blood sucker. Do you okay with that? Or maybe you want me to change it with your lover name?”

“No, I think Leedya is fine.”

“Where do I start? Okay, in my love-quest for Leedya I had to sacrifice my body and soul … honestly it’s only my body, you want to see it?” said Morran as he preparing to take off his clothes.

“I don’t think it’s necessary, just get to the part when you fishing it, umm … ‘leeching’ it.” said Rey.

“Well then, I do skipping to tell to her gigantic master that I’ve had a lot of yearning on them. I jump up and down, there and there with emotions to show how my desire to Leedya was so excruciating.” said Morran with full expression and gesture like he was playing drama.

“What happened then?”

“The giant papa seemed understood my love-sickness. It was then told to Leedya to see me without knowing what my intentions to them. Leedya so aggressive, every time we met they always bitten me and held me so wild. But I never blame them I thought it was my own fault that I did never introspection to myself.”

“Which is?” asked Rey.

“I never realized how attractive and handsome I am for them.”

Rey just frowned to hear Morran’s word, Scarlett on the other side feel the same way too about his melodramatic act.

“Why God cursed me with such handsome face, and this attractive, and this perfect body, why?” Morran bowed like someone who lamented on something.

Scarlett halted and turned to Morran. “Is he really belongs to Runeglade.”

“Maybe it’s not a curse, maybe it’s a gift. You just don’t know how to use your … ‘handsomeness’”. Rey amused him with compulsion.

“You’re right kid, you’re right.” Morran got up with a face full of spirit. “Curse or a blessing, is depend on how I used my handsomeness and attractiveness. I should use it for world peace.”

“That’s noble thing to do.” said Rey give two thumbs up and forcing a smile.

“Come here!” Suddenly Scarlett grabbed him and whispered something. “It’s just me or you began to mad like him?”

“I just trying to cheered him up. He’s been here in thirty years, alone, and he helped us before.” said Rey in whisper. “Not to mention that he had more knowledge down here rather than both of us mixed together.”

“Do as you wish, but keep sane till we found a way out of here.”

Currently Morran get cheerful again and his steps very light as if he can walk on the air.

“What happened then?” asked Rey.

“When they were all over me, I was immediately run into the house and locked the door so I could be alone with Leedya, actually not alone but more like crazy party. You should have seen how crazy we were at that time.”

“Wow I couldn’t imagine.” said Rey.

“Yeah, nerd loser like you who couldn’t even close to a girl you loved could not imagine how crazy we were at that time.”

Rey was irritated when heard that, on the other side Scarlett was laughing behind her back.

“But for Leedya I am willing to do everything even if it’s give me pain all over my body. Listen son, Leedya is just like girl. If you really love that girl named Melody you have to fight for her even if it’s give you pain right here.” said Morran as he pointing to Rey’s chest. “Of course we must get out of here first. Otherwise you’ll have to live with a woman lead us. Just between us, I think living with that girl, I mean that woman must be much more painful than you fight for the girl you loved.”

Rey trying to hold his laugh and suddenly Scarlett turned around and yelled at them.

“Do you both had something more important things to talked about?!”

They both bowed his head in silence like a student who got scolded by their teacher.

“It happens when you 28.5 and single still.” said Morran laughing next to Rey, while Rey himself halted his laugh when looking at Scarlett eyes.

This time Scarlett tried to hold her emotion, she knew there’s no point to angry with them, especially in a situation like this. Later Scarlett casts another flare, three orb of light levitate on her palm, shining blue and brighter than she was created before.

“Each of you took this! Explore the city ruins take each Sphere you find or something that you consider could help us to get back to the surface. In an hour we gather here, estimated it yourself.”

“All right!” said them, while took the orb of light.

With the gleam of light Rey thought that the blue flare was as hot as glowing fluorescent light but he was wrong, the flare on his hand radiate warm light, so soft and warmth like holding a balloon with warm water inside.

Three of them then split down to explore the city ruins. Scarlett explored the area around the mansion where they first landed. Among three of them she took the most difficult and inaccessible area because most of the area had been covered by mud. But with her Silverhare Sphere she could feel that there’s a wide and lot of space under mounting mud. Scarlett teleported directly into the mansion and stood she was in the main hall staring cynical at deceitful face of the fat old man on the large painting, “old bastard.”

Meanwhile Morran search down the area around his hideout. Many has changed, he didn’t even recognize that place again. But not far from where he stood, he saw a pavilion with sticking crystal, a blue crystal which for decades protected him from the bloodsucking swarm. Somehow he felt missing for something here, more than his origin on the surface. He missed his wrecking house, missed being safe there, missed with the courage for outside only to seek old knowledge and missed the moments when he’s being bitten by leeches to fighting for his stomach.

Rey on the other side wandered around about the Belthazar statue where he found his broken sword. Although the city ruins before him was no more than dead town but the glory and greatness lays still on them. All of the secrets and mysteries of them were tempting to reveal.

***

Marius and Eorin race against the sunset. The sky seemed to haunt them with the hue of blood and the cloud kindled as if burnt by flame. They halted. Far away they saw a small village prepared for the night to come. Peoples stop their activity, the farmer shouldering hoe and harrow like returning soldier and the herdsmen gathering their lamb.

“Hang on! We’ll find help for you.” said Marius.

They rode into the village and when they arrive few villagers greeted them. They look friendly but it couldn’t be denied that there was cynicism and fear on their eyes when looked at both riders. Moreover brought someone injured on the back had told them that they also brought a problem with them.

“Little help please!” shouted Marius as he dismounted.

Three peoples immediately ran over Marius followed by few people behind. Soon they lowering and carrying Aska.

“Take him in!” Said an old man, seemed he was chief of this village from the way he talked in commanding voice and how others respond him with respect. “What happened?”

“I will tell it later but first please help our friend.” replied Marius.

“We will treat him as best as we could do.” said the chief.

“Thank you.”

“But sir, you couldn’t let them here. Didn’t you hear about what happened to the other village?” said the man next to the chief.

“Please believe us!” Eorin begged to him.

Without speaking a word Marius stepped forward while removing all the Spheres he had, so was the sword at his waist. Then he offered them respectfully in the presence of the village chief. Marius talking as he bowed his head. “I begged for your trust. You can keep all the magic and weapons we had, but please save our friend.”

Although he had bowed his head down but the chief has seen strange glance of him. He knew the man before him just pretending without the need to hand over their belonging, the type of person who justifies any means to achieve his objectives. However the chief didn’t sense a bad intentions from Marius and especially from the blue-eyed girl next to him, though he know it would be a risk to let them in, for they may bring the menace who hunted them.

“You can keep your weapons and Spheres.”

“But sir …”

“They need our help and we could not ignore them. Do not let unreasonable fears hinder us to care for others.”

Aska was brought into treatment house with Eorin accompanied him while chief invited Marius into village hall. A gathering being held there, they talked about what kind of menace spreads on the West Rim recently. Mostly said that it was Azgalor army, other thought that it was a bandit and few had opinion that it was disease or strange beast but almost all replies put the blame on government and military.

“This is happened again, like old time before the great battle. Dark Lord’s army came and swept one villages to another, leaved no lives or dead.”

“The Dark Lord is dead, don’t call his name here. Maybe this is just common bandit or something.”

“No, bandit can’t do something like this, if it was them the royal forces have swept them already.”

“It’s Federation for sure. They always want the war with us.”

“Gentleman, please.” said chief tried to calm everyone.

“Maybe he should tell us.” said one of them pointing to Marius.

“What do you mean?” Marius wondered.

“I was there, about two weeks ago when I go to Dampitt Village to visit my brother. Military was there and the village was restricted. When I asked them they said that it was disease and the whole place was quarantined, no one allowed. However I don’t see someone in white only those guys in armor, so I don’t believe them.” said him, “Then I tried to enter to see it myself. My brother once told me about the underground passage he built so I sneaked there. And when I’m inside the entire village was empty and quiet, no one was there as if all of them taken away by some ghost. Hardly to believe that it was Azgalor or bandit, for only little part of the village had damaged and I see no blood there or dead body. You’re soldier, don’t you? What happened actually? And please don’t lie to us, our life may about sheep or grain but we’re not fools.”

“I’m just new guy here and my rank just took order no question. To be honest I had same question about whom or what we’re dealing now, is it Azgalor, bandits, beast, strange disease like government said or maybe ghost in the mist which dragged them into their realm. And we don’t know their motives, those peoples are missing, no blood no dead bodies as this man spoke, possibly they’re still alive held somewhere.” said Marius. “I believed Shell already do something.”

“’already do something’, that sounds like we must wait till they attack this village.”

“Listen, you can do something or you can just waiting in fear and do nothing when they’re coming.” said Marius. “Let me tell you, I am Ishtar soldier, sworn to protect all of you. I will not run, I will not leave, I will fight to protect you even it just me.” Marius stated.

“Then let me join on your side.” replied one of them.

“I don’t care whatever it was, I say we smash them all when they got here!” said one of them raises his hammer followed by yell from the others.

“Yeahhh!!!” shouted all of them.

“Thank you.” said chief to Marius.

“You don’t have to, I just keep their spirit.” said Marius.

“Maybe that’s all we need at the time like this.” replied him.

Marius then gave something to the chief, a talisman. “Keep it whatever happened, so I can keep my words to all of you. If you’ll excuse me, I have to see those kids.”

“Then go and see them.”

Marius rose and went out. The chief then looked at the talisman he gave. In his eyes it looks like an ordinary thing but somehow he feels some malice lurked in it and makes him uneasy just by keeping it.

Chapter 20

Terra Hand

“Look at this I got much Jackpot here.” said Morran, while showing a bag of Spheres. Scarlett could only collect in lesser number. With many Spheres they found made them have to sort out which ones are useful to get them out and which ones are not, though they were reckoned as a high level Sphere.

“Hey, this is Frost Wyrm, this sentient could only be found in the North White, pretty dangerous area, cold and unreturned. My friend once went there and not to be found again, maybe he already frozen there.” said Morran.

“Here’s I could only find.” Said Rey, then he showed a crystal chunk with a creature inside. “Is this a Sphere? I see a sentient sealed inside but the shape wasn’t spherical as in common.”

“It was Raw-Sphere. In common term it could be referred as Proto-Sphere. In old times all Sphere had a shape like this, well not actually shaped like this but all the Spheres at that time was raw and rough.” said Morran. “In ancient times when the castes system splits society in few degrees, a Sphere was used to show their social class, to show that their knowledge and magic was deserved for honor or even nobility. Mostly they attached it on their staff, rod, scepter or any kind of weapon which show a sense of honor or divinity. But don’t get wrong, even the Sphere was the one which showing their social class but they more concern about the shape of their weapon rather than the shape of crystal. That’s why they didn’t give a shape to crystal but only polish it.”

“How do you know this?”

“I was crazy lady but that doesn’t mean I am unintelligence. Besides I was lived in Runeglade before and you could read this sort of things in the any common libraries there.” said Morran “Ah Runeglade, I wish I could set foot there once again, beige floor of libraries, dusty and dirty parchments, the aroma of old papers was more tantalizing than the scent of every flower in the Namasse or, or sweet smell of fresh Colombona Coffee in the morning. You know son, paper and ink is the only thing that could never be replaced by times. Ah if only I could get out of here.”

“Instead lamented on your Runeglade why you don’t help us identify all this Spheres. I want to know what kind of sentient sealed inside and the abilities they had.”

“This is Frost Wyrm.” said Morran shows the Sphere of ice dragon once again. “Great level of ice magic, it could also make you become resist to cold and ice. It also granted you with the ‘frost sight’, you could see clearly among the fog or snow storm, very useful if you’re in area like North White or misty mountains in the northern region.”

“What about this?” Rey shows a Sphere containing sea dragon inside, the shape look similar to Azra’s dragon but slightly different, less ferocious but still looks dangerous as creatures which lies in the deep ocean.

“It is Myrmidon. You could breathe in the water and swim fast with this.” answered Scarlett “They’re not common for us who lived in the continent and coastal, for it was lived in the deeper ocean. But in the place like Azzure Point the Myrmidon was considered as daily life Sphere and their custom.” said Scarlett.

“Hey, I don’t know about this.” said Scarlett shows a Sphere with dragon sealed in it, much like a long serpent with four legs and long thin wings which spanned like fins.

“Let me see!” said Morran sharpen his eyes. “Whoa this is the Demon Knucker.” said Morran looks very excited.

“Demon Knucker?” said Scarlett look curious

“Well, it was extinct about 6000 years ago. I don’t blame you if you don’t know about it. According to the legend he can breathe a hot black smoke, like a shadow upon volcanoes, poisonous and very deadly.” said Morran snickered. “If only we could find a Sphere that contains its opposite sex we could unseal them out, breed them and preserve it. Although it would be very dangerous, the whole place will be … well just imagine when volcano got active.”

“A lot of valuable Spheres here, few of them even the rare ones. But none of them could get us to the surface.” Scarlett moaned.

“Actually, there is one that might be very useful … this one!” said Moran gave a Sphere to Scarlett, inside it there’s a dark humanoid lizard with luminous red veins on its muscular body as if its blood was burning lava.”

“Is this …”

“Cheruffe, subterranean fire creature, dwells beneath the Fire Mountain of Palisador. Great enough to classify as level A Spheres, possess powerful earth elemental and great fire. In the reign of Queen Astarte she often used this to create cataclysm, sent great earthquake or infernal disaster to whom opposed her, very terrible.” said Morran. “With this we could create small cracks that open our way to surface and what we need to do is just climbed it.”

“Unfortunately none of us could use it.” said Scarlett.

“Why?” asked Rey.

“Because none of us had strong valia to controls it. Using high level Spheres such as Cheruffe will only kill us.” replied Scarlett. “My uncle had one of this, took years to controlled it and yet he could only generates medium earthquake and common flame.”

“Your uncle must have been great to control such Sphere. Who is he? Maybe I know him.”

“Alden of Lucretia.” answered Scarlett.

“I don’t know him. The only one I knew with name Alden was just Alden Bytheroot of Bulvengard, bright and talented he was but stubborn fool and sloppy, always brought himself in trouble.”

Scarlett smiled then laughing “It’s him, it was my uncle. Alden Bytheroot is my uncle, of my mother, we moved from Midgard about twenty years ago.”

“Is that true?! Alden Bytheroot is your uncle?! Wow! The world smaller than I thought.” said Morran laughing.

“So you knew my uncle?”

“Of course I know him and all of Artharis companion. How he is now? Is he good and healthy? And how about his friend Sahagin, did he and that Volk youngling still teased him to mad? I hope they can beat Lord Azriel and save the world.”

Sympathy and respect was in her stare. The old man had been trapped here, in the deepest darkness for decades, thirty years or less in her reckoning. But the spirit and hope on him hasn’t been faded. And maybe being crazy was the only way for him to survive. The old man would prefer to live in the madness rather than drowning in despair.

“What’s wrong?”

“No, it just I forgot it has been a long time your life was spent here.” said Scarlett. “Many things have happened since you’re here? Some might surprise you.”

“Why? What’s happened? Did Artharis and the others lost? Is the Dark Lord have dominated all over Spheria?”

“No it’s been better from the last time you had remembered, though not as good as you imagine. I’ll tell you later, for now I want to find the way out of here, for all of us.”

“All right then.” said Morran complied.

“What about this? Asked Scarlett “If I’m not wrong the sentient inside was earth elemental.”

“Yes it was, but I doubt it’s useful to get us out. His abilities were about the surface, controlled the ground or stick them out. I often used this Sphere at the camp when young, creating tall dirt wall to protect me from the beast.”

“Seemed nothing here quite useful than Cheruffe, couldn’t we think of other ways to use this Sphere?”

“I guess not, Cheruffe is sentient class A, too strong for any of us. Alden himself must be take years to control it, wasn’t him?”

“About 4 or 5 years from I knew.”

“If we’re forcing to use it, uncontrolled burst of energy will kill us or because Cheruffe had also strong element of fire it will instantly cremate our bodies in a try.” answered Morran. “And even if we could use it without any harm to ourselves, even if we mastered it fully like the Queen does, we’re blind down here. We don’t know where the magic will generate, we could make a huge crack in the middle of the city therefore we sacrifice many lives up there only to save ours.”

“It just crossed into my mind.” said Scarlett, she paused a moment to think of something “But how about combination?”

When both of them busy sorting and talking about the Spheres, Rey quietly take a walk into city ruins. He seemed in great distress, fear and threat might had passed as the Great Worm was accidentally fell into his stone blade but then the grim silence of the place dragged him into anxiousness once again. He began to worried, what if he couldn’t get out of here? Trapped forever and undiscovered.

Far enough he have bring himself so he couldn’t see his companions but two shadows beneath dim blue and their converse was sounded like whisper. Later he was sitting on debris, fiery blue floating above him like fireflies in the serene darkness and slowly he grew little calmer. Ruins and darkness which was like dreadful fate before now looks like an adventure and unforgotten dreams, yes he was in a place that has not been seen or touched by anyone even for people who live in this world.

Then his mind brought into many question about home, into those who he knew and loved. How about his grandfather? Certainly he was the one who had most concerned and worried about him. His only grandson disappeared, gone away without saying anything and unbeknown to him that there’s mysterious black crystal drew him in an unexpected journey.

And Asti? Surely she worried as much as his grandpa but Rey even worried more about his best friend. Who will beside her when she sad? What if her parent get quarrel once again and he wouldn’t be there to comfort her? What if his friend does suicide, ah it’s impossible, Asti too strong for that, but drugs …?”

And how about Melody? Is she would missed him? Or it otherwise around that she would be comfortably falling for another man without concerned him at all, mostly it will happen and it already has. Scarlett was right, she probably would never know that he was alive, always there and always looked at her. Maybe it was his own fault that he never dared to stood before her and looked into her eyes, even when he gave that gift to her.

His mind then travelled beyond space and time. Bring him back to a most daring night throughout his life, at least according to his measure. The incident was a few months ago, but the light at the dark end still feels glare in his eyes and the roaring sound of the old motor and the sound of rapid gunfire still echoing in his ears.

That night he stood in front of his house, waiting for his best friend. A pot of cactus lied on his hand neatly wrapped on plastic with cute little bear as the pattern. That day was Melody’s birthday and he couldn’t attend her party because he had to help his grandpa in the bookstore. This is near end of the month and their bookstore usually got crowded, between students who have just received the cash for the class to the person who pawned his book to survive till next salary. At the same moment Asti couldn’t get there too until the dusk sinks, noon to evening she was in Bandung to attend ‘Bandung Lautan Api’ Festival and had her band playing there. Because of that she got the idea and requested him to come in the birthday at night thought it might be over.

For a whole night he hesitated, a doubt was grew in his eyes and for many times he tried to drag his feet back as he wanted to get back into the house and hiding behind warmth blanket and forget this stupid idea. But then from the right corner of the road he heard the roaring sound of motor approaching with the blinding headlight drew closer. And the next thing he knew that Asti was before him, ride on the rig which was seemed 10 years older of their age, the side car is much shiny than the bike itself, black and fire patterned. And what wasn’t less surprised him was the rider itself, Asti worn dull brown leather jacket along with retro sunglasses and helmet, like she was Amelia Earhart on the motorcycle. And slung on her shoulder was the Thompson riffle, just a novelty gun but she seemed proud to hold it as if she wanted to be women on war in the past, graceful but tough.

“Where have you been dressing like that? And whose bike is this?”

“I have told you I was in Bandung and I gig with this outfit, cool right? And I hijacked this cool ride from an old collector. I just have to return it with a full tank.” said Asti confident “Let’s go to that goddess’s palace shall we?!”

“Don’t you want to change your clothes first? Is not like we going to war.”

“Love is war. You go forward with courage and confidence then shoot her straight through into her heart.” said Asti gave her riffle to Rey.

“I never think that far, I just want to come and give this to her because I have promised. After all we’ve been friends with her since junior high, there’s no reason for us not to attend on her birthday.”

“This is gonna be the most boring night on my life.” said Asti sighing and look sluggish, for a moment she leaning her head on handlebar but soon she spirited again. “Well, at least I could see your stupid silly face when you in front of her. Come get in!”

The bike was drove with Rey sitting on the sidecar. Not everyday people could see a bike with sidecar, especially when the rider worn an odd fashion and her sidekick hold the old riffle. They have succeeded to attract everybody’s attention with roaring sound of motor and it had embarrassed him all the way up. And about 10 minutes later they had arrived at Melody’s house. Both of them get down and walked slowly, both fear and excitement fell upon him as he looking at the house.

“Good luck!” said Asti encouraged him. But Rey, as was expected just stood looking at her house without dragging forward any of his feet and without noticed by him Asti secretly back into the bike and ready to start the engine suppose Rey didn’t turned at her first.

“What you’re doing?”

“I just check the gas.” answered Asti. Then she got off the bike again. “What you’re waiting for, just get in!”

“Should I do this?”

“Of course.” said Asti.

“Couldn’t we do this next year?”

“Just do it! Knock the door, say ‘happy birthday’ and gave the gift to her. That piece of cake.”

“Do you think I need to buy another gift?”

Asti looks upset and she sighed, “Be patience Asti, perhaps this is why you’re destined more manly than him.” that girl mumbled.

Asti then opened the gate, so slowly and carefully she opened it till nothing to be heard but little creaking in their ears. Just about two feet she opened it and with grinning face she told him to pass. Without a doubt he passed the gate but soon he turned again to Asti.

“You know, maybe he just needs to accept the gift alone without me to seeing her.”

“Whatever.” said Asti smiled cunningly. And suddenly she closed the gate to thud loudly.

“Who’s there?!!!” shouted a heavy voice from inside.

“Meowww!” said Rey while he stepped backward. But then he slipped, fall on the plant with the twig hooks the trigger. At once the sound of rapid gunfire came out of his toy gun, loud and noisy.

“Thief?!!!” shouted the heavy voice again.

Rey getting scared, no, more than scared, the young man was like an animal trying to survive. All the energy and ability he devoted to climb the gate without care of anything, not even the gift he brought. The wrapped cactus he left on the ground along with Thompson rifle.

Once he was outside he saw Asti was trying to turn on the bike but it seemed the engine disobey her, apparently he wanted to leave him alone on Melody’s house at the beginning. But at that time Rey seemed doesn’t really care about it, the only one on his mind was away from there before Melody and her family ever saw him.

Rey jumped and sitting in the sidecar, “Drive, drive, drive!” yelled him.

And luck seemed to favor on him. The motorcycle which was for the last minute couldn’t turn on at that very moment started with loud roaring sound. Without a mind Rey immediately pull the gas with left hand and the bike drove fast and almost hit a tree suppose Asti not quickly take over. Both of them go away like shadow under dim light and leaving fainted sound of motor in the distance.

“Hey, where’s my Simpson?” asked Asti.

At the moment Rey lost himself to heard Asti’s question so he giving no answer and just looking at the road. The orange glow of the road light cheered him up. For the first time since she came into his life he felt closer to Melody than before.

“Forget about the riffle consider it a gift from me. And you, you’re good for nothing!” said Asti upset. “Why don’t you dare to faced her and talked to her? You know what, she will stand next with any man but you, and it’s all because you didn’t dare to look and talk to her.”

What Asti said that night was right so was Scarlett. Two different women from two different worlds said the same thing about him that he never had courage to talk to her. Maybe it’s better if he get trapped here, being mad like Morran and forget her forever.

But suddenly a voice inside him broke the discouragement which for a while ensnared him. Ah no way! Not in any world I could fell in despair. I will turn to my world, my home, all who loved me. And I will do Morran advice I will fought for Melody’s love or get pain for it.

Rey shouted and firmly thrust his stone blade into the ground. So spirited he was without realized that he had his Sphere glowing, the one which sealed the Destroyer Spirit, the Gremlin. But nothing happened neither blast nor luminous object about him, everything was so quiet until he himself doesn’t realized what was going on or what was he did. But at the same moment when he thrust the sword, far from him, as they sorting a Sphere, a round symbol glowing under their feet like they being trapped by some magic.

“Is that …” Scarlett seem had already guessing what it was, for in last 24 hours he saw it many times and he spent all the day with the one who could conjure it, though he didn’t know how he did it. Morran on the contrary tempted and attempted to knock it.

“Don’t touch it!”

But she was late. Morran had knocked it before the last word of her warning. The symbol blasts like a raging force. Both of them repelled roughly and the Sphere were scattered everywhere. Far away from them Rey was surprised by the sound of explosion and soon he turned around and ran to them.

“What happened?” asked Rey.

“What happened?! It should be me to ask you what you’re doing.” Scarlett snapped “Look at what you did!”

“What did I do?” said Rey confused, he felt didn’t do anything at all except sit in a place away from them.

“You blew us, do you think it was funny?!” said Scarlett look upset.

“I didn’t do anything? I just sitting there all over the time till I heard a bam.”

“That bam caused by Gremlin Sphere, I’m sure of it and you’re the only one who holds such Sphere. I do not know how you do it but I’m sure it was you.”

“He didn’t do it.”

“See.” said Rey.

“But his sword did.”

“See.” said Scarlett stared at him, but soon she suddenly aware of what that old man said. “Wait, what do you mean?”

“If I’m not mistake the sword on his hand was Terra Hand, so it called as I could translate from the Book of Muntazzar. I’m not sure what it was till I saw the glowing symbol that bam us.” said Morran, then he think of something “Hey I’ve got an idea. It could get us out of here.”

“Really?” said both of them in unison.

“Not really, not before we tried it.” said Morran.

“Then how?”

“Wait a second, no, it’s about minutes. Wait here, I’ll take something.” Morran go somewhere to their left while raving about, “We’re lucky that place was still intact and unburied.” But then after few steps and words, not even his figure has turned into shadow he running back to them.

“If you two want to fight please don’t do it before I back because I don’t want to miss it.”

“Just go!” said Scarlett, she look upset and furious.

“Okay.”

Again he took his way to their left, somewhere in the directionless darkness and leaving them both.

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t mad about that little matter. It just this darkness and to think that we would be like …” said Scarlett.

“That’s okay I understand.” replied Rey.

“You’re amateur and weak. I shouldn’t know that you wouldn’t do such thing like that, at least not by intention or purpose.”

“Thank you for reminds me who I am. Little joke and sarcasm, that’s what we need in this situation.” said Rey. “What if his plan doesn’t works? What if it was just false hope?”

“Ever think that your beautiful ‘Melody’ rested her head on well-built pecs of another man while you trapped here forever and become whacky-wacko like him?”

“I just think about it a moment ago.”

“How it was? Hurt?”

“Very.”

“Then let’s think that it wasn’t false hope shall we?”

“Okay.”

As they spoke, there came Morran out of shadow with a crystal chunk in his hand.

“What is that?”

“It’s Chronicle of Belthazzar, forgotten fairy tales in our times but in the time when it was written it’s a record. This chronicles tells about the Belthazzar who had task to fought seven Archeons and one sword forged for this course. I found no name of this sword, for this chronicle has been apart but the one I know for sure was the sword had seven forms. Seven forms with seven different abilities to fight each of Great Ancients.”

The crystal glowing and at once Morran casts a flame of magic. It was like a golden smoke but they feel warmth around it. At first it looks like shapeless flame, but as they seen it the golden smoke gradually shapes something like crescent but there’s a hole in the lower point.

“Silver Crescent was its name if translated in our language. I don’t know what the ability was, it only tell that ‘the blade wield the knight’ don’t know what it means but with this Belthazzar killed one of the Great Ancients, the one with the greatest speed it said.”

“He killed one of the Archeons?”

“I myself surprised, we know the seven number of Archeon was originate from baseless fairy tales. But then here I find out that one of them had been killed.” said Morran. “There’s missing part on this chronicle, but fortune for us that the part about this great worm weren’t lost.”

The crescent-shaped of golden smoke now shaped into something very familiar for them recently, it was shaped like stone blade on Rey’s hand.

“Amazing isn’t it? It is Terra Hand. Belthazzar fought this worm with the stone blade on your hand. The stone blade itself had abilities like scepter of the Magi, to transcend energy and magical abilities but through the ground only. However this blade had longer reach than any scepter, if I’m not mistake.” said Morran.

“How long?” asked Scarlett.

“Mostly the scepter only have radius about 10-15 meter, mine could do double than that.” said Morran shows his staff. “But this blade, since it was meant to fight this worm, just say that wherever this worm slumbered we could send some magic to attack him, so it means very long.”

“That’s make sense, how powerful you are you couldn’t fight something hidden underground.”

“The story told that with this stone blade Belthazzar attacked the giant worm with all great magic he had and so the worm came to the surface. However at that time Belthazzar failed to kill it due to its size.” said Morran “The record about the stone blade and this worm ends here and I couldn’t found the next chapter.”

“Ok, we have heard your story. May I know what your plan actually?”

“Are you didn’t listening? This stone blade could transcend magical attack from surface to this worm, to this depth, to wherever this worm burry now. So I believe it could do otherwise around, here to surface.” said Morran “My plan is … we use this sword, no he shall, since he’s the only one who could use it, to send a message to the surface, maybe some ‘help’ fire lettering and then we wait someone up there to dig us out of here.”

“Wow! That’s very smart plan of you.” said Scarlett.

“Really?” said Morran.

“No, that’s the ridiculous plan I’ve ever heard. Better I teleported right now and buried …” Scarlett paused for a moment “… on the ground.”

Soon Scarlett detached one of her Sphere then threw it off to Rey. “Take this and use it! Go as far as you could and do what you did last time!” ordered Scarlett, but soon he halted him. “Wait, I don’t want you to blow us this time, so take off all your Spheres and use mine only.”

“If I may know …”

“Just do it, ask later!” shouted Scarlett “Now go, run, run, run!”

Scarlett did frighten him, forcing him to run as far as possible. He raced pass the leaning tower and city ruins to a place he had never stepped before, the farthest side where he could see red purplish wall of tissue stretched to the edge of light.

There everything so quiet and still, there’s nothing but small rubble and even the carcasses of leech look less on that place. Both of his friends weren’t seen no more but little shadows under a point of light, even their sound swallowed in the distance.

Rey bowed and thrust his sword to the ground while using the Sphere given by Scarlett. And suddenly there’s some friendly but smart consciousness came into his mind, it was Silverhare, the rabbit of the moon, the jumper of the light. The Silverhare itself somehow seems more benign than the both Imp he had, whereas it held a great abilities.

Suddenly Rey felt there’s some force dragged him as if he was drawn to somewhere and at once his eyes got flashed, purplish red color about him suddenly turned into a bright light of blue with two faces looking at him from below. Rey fell on Morran and he got up immediately as the old man’s smell stung his nose.

“What was that?” asked Morran.

“Our way out.” said Scarlett smiled, looked at Rey with full hope and joy.

***

Dusk deepened. In the darkening east the stars shone faintly, and the moon rose above the forest but the red gleam of crimson moon veiled by cloud. The shadows spread in the land and forest but the light was kindled on their home. The village was quiet and peace, everyone had inside their house, only few old men wandering around with hanging lantern to patrol.

Aska woke uneasy, thinking that the enemies still after them. But everything was calm around him, light was shining brightly above him while dimness peeking on the windows. And he was surprised when found Eorin fell asleep at his side.

The day was hard for them. Never they’re on such serious and dangerous situation, beasts on the Grimwood they might be unworried against it but skillful man with many experiences in battle isn’t something they could face easily. Suppose Marius or Scarlett wasn’t there for them maybe they were already dead.

Eorin then wakened from her sleep, “Hi!” said her.

“Hi!”

“How do you feel?”

“Getting better.” said Aska. “I used the wingless dragon to recover my wounds.” he continued.

“Is it okay to use it? You’re not mastered it yet, we’ve trained it many times but always ended bad. Last time I had to knock you down with a block of ice on your head.”

“Indeed I’m not mastered it, but to use only its rapid healing bit by bit without took the shape it was still safe for me.” said Aska. “Maybe I will fully recover in less than an hour.”

Eorin smiled but soon her face saddened as if her heart burdened by something. “I’m still thinking about Rey and Scarlett.” said her.

“We can’t let off our mind from them are we?”

“Do you think …?”

“What your heart told about them?” asked him.

“I don’t know. Despite all the bad thought storming my mind, somehow my heart feels calm and easy about them.”

“Then we felt the same thing. My Elder said that’s how the fate spoke to our heart.” said Aska. “They will be fine and we will meet them sooner or later.”

Suddenly without their notice Marius has stood next to the door, looked at them with cold gaze. Then he walked over to them, slowly and silently.

“How ‘bout him?” asked Marius.

“He’s fine. Just need a little rest.” answered Eorin.

“Good news.” Said Marius, as he touched Eorin’s neck and suddenly she fell unconscious. Marius deftly caught her before she fell and gently put her on the floor. Secretly he put something on her finger.

“Hey what are you doing?” shouted Aska. He tried to moves but his waist and back not recovered yet till he halted in pain. Then Marius suffered him more by pressed his chest hardly.

“This is not joke or game. Kids like you are not supposed to be here. Scarlett naively believed kids like you would help her, but in fact you all just a burden to her. Did one of you have dragged her to death in that ravine?” said Marius coldly. “Once you wake, return to Lucretia and forget all of this.”

With only one finger Marius stunned Aska to him unconscious. Then he leaved them and locked the door from outside. For a while he leaned himself on the door then he sighed, “Get a safe night kids.”

***

“What’s your plan actually?”

“Silverhare Sphere gives us the ability to teleport but the range limited about ten meter only, couldn’t be more than that.” said Scarlett, “Now, what if the teleportation ability mixed with the ability of your sword?”

“We could move further away, like I just did.”

“Not further but to the surface.”

“So we use the teleportation Sphere and this sword together to get out of here.”

“That’s right.”

“Ok then, I’ll practice it.” said Rey.

“No, no time for practice, you do it now.”

“Why?”

“We don’t know how long the stone blade keeps in that form. This old man said that the sword has seven forms right? If we waste more time I’m afraid it could be back to the broken blade again or another blade which might not useful to get us out.”

“All right, but like you saw before I had no idea where I would landed, we could be falling down like I was.”

“It doesn’t matter where we’re going to be. If you asked me what the worst thing that might be happened is we would have landed ten meters above the ground and get all our bones broken, one month in the bed with painful medication. But it’s all paradise than trapped here forever.”

“Or it could be worse than the worst. You’re stuck here … with this woooman.” said Morran casually. “Just do it! Ask later! Run run run!” Morran tried to imitating Scarlett.

Scarlett glanced at him cynically but now her joy is far exceeds her anger.

***

Faint sounds of screams and cries like a whisper in the dream, made Aska woke up with eyes half-closed still. At first Aska thought it was just voice left from his dreams but after few seconds the voices not yet gone instead it become clearer and tangible as if very close to him.

He woke immediately but carefully peeking out of the window. There he saw a flash of light shooting to and fro like there was a battle in the silent night. Figures in the black shoot the village and take them down one by one and within the chaos some thin creatures picked their bodies. In the shadows he couldn’t see them clearly but as they stretched their hand to uncommon length soon he realized who they are, for the Volk Tribe of the North had long quarrel with the grave robber. Though he felt weird to see them far away from home and do something unusual.

Aska stoop his head and hiding under the window as he felt something or someone look at him and when he looked down he saw his friend slumped on the floor unconscious. He crawled on the bed to get into Eorin.

“Eorin, hey Eorin! Wake Up!” Aska whisper-shouted while shake her up. “Wake up!”

Eorin opened her eyes to aghast, but Aska silenced her immediately. “Sshhh!”

“What happened?” asked Eorin.

“They come and attacked this village.”

“What?!” exclaimed Eorin in surprise.

“Keep your voice down!” said Aska.

Eorin groping for something on the floor, but there was nothing she could find except cold granite floor. “Where’s my scepter? My Sphere?” asked Eorin wondered.

“Hey mine too.” said Aska. Soon he remembered the last moment before he fainted and the last person he saw. “Marius, that Ogre-bred trickster, I’ll bite you if we met again.” he swore.

“Save that for later. Now we must think something to fight them.”

“Fight them?! Even if we had all of our Spheres I’m not sure if we could survive there less than five minutes.”

“So we just hide?”

Outside everything fell in chaos. Peoples got panic and fear, some trying to save and hide their children, some tried to escape but it was vain while the rest fought back. But against such force they were overwhelmed, both number and power. The chief looked to his village in desperation, his peoples screamed in fear to at last fell in silence. And before he realized a black phantom stood before him, stretched his hand and ready to shot the old man.

But suddenly a boy jumped off behind and cleave the troop with shovel. “Volk Tribe rather dies than flee from the battle!” said Aska to the fallen enemy.

Behind him Eorin also fought the Raider with bat on her hand. Both of them fought with whatever they got. Alas it wasn’t for long, Eorin fall first by the green flash while Aska raised both hand as the Raider put their claws on his neck.

“Volk Tribe also thinks it’s better to give up and fought another day.” said Aska smirked.

Those Raiders would kill that young Volk here and now if they weren’t commanded only to bring those villagers. With the claws on his neck, suddenly a phantom shot him till he fell unconscious.

***

It almost an hour they have running in the pale red tunnel, Scarlett led their way with blue flare in her hand. They kept running and running in the endless darkness, no dead swarm found on their last halfway but the smell more horrible as they go forward till forced Scarlett put her mask on.

“Where are we going actually?”

“Its mouth of course, there we shall be teleported into the surface.” said Scarlett, “But if you want to teleported through the discrete tunnel I won’t stop you.”

“No, thank you.”

They still kept running, pain they don’t felt and tired they don’t heed, for the only one they care about was to get out of here immediately. Realized or not, Rey was running relentlessly ever since he met with Iceberg on the train while he couldn’t even made ten laps of running in the school yard. His spirit to survive has made him pass his limits.

Suddenly their path blocked by cluster of rocks, horn-shaped and taller than all of them.

“What is this?” said Rey rubbed the rocks. It was bit soft, more like dirty huge ivory than rock.

“Teeth.” answered Morran, Rey removed his hand immediately when heard what it was.

They walked through it until they found themselves at the dead end. Dark and wrinkled wall halted them with mound of dirt rose before them into the darkness that couldn’t reach by the blue light. And now they have no longer stepped on the pale flesh but slimy ground.

Scarlett enhances her magic so the blue light on her hand grew brighter and the darkness fled away. Now stretched before them and on either side was a vast cavernous hall, dark and soiled as the dirt covered all over the place. Behind them a row of big teeth suddenly grew in countless number and lined circular from bottom to top. And the mound before them loomed into knoll which led into an orifice. For a moment they were amazed and stunned to see how gigantic this creature was.

They climbed the knoll, about third floor or less it was. And when they reached the peak they met dirt wall within the orifice, dark and filled with stones. Rey thrust the dirt wall before him with his stone blade, so Scarlett and Morran touched his shoulder.

“Are you ready?” asked Rey.

No answer came from peoples behind, for tenseness of waiting muted them. Rey then used the Silverhare Sphere and at once he felt like there was an open space stretched far above him with the structure stood all over it as if he could touch it. Then he felt a shape of human above there, but strange, that person wandering alone among many houses.

Rey took deep breath and heave a sigh. “Now or never.” said him.

In the blink of eyes they’re vanished, leaving the blue light alone to fade in the darkness.

Chapter 21

The Soul Stealer

They’re got themselves somewhere unknown, none of them knowing what have happened or where they are now since they have teleported. They couldn’t see anything but darkness and suddenly they heard sound of clinking metals.

“Who’s there? Scarlett?! Morran?!” called Rey.

“I’m here.” said Scarlett, the sound seemed next to him. Then Scarlett cast blue light once again but when she lit up the darkness, suddenly they were surprised and screamed as they look sinister old face grinning above the light.

“Hey it’s me.” said Morran.

“Sorry I thought …”

“Whatever.” said Morran.

“Where are we now? Don’t say that we back to the first place again.” asked Rey.

“I don’t think so. This is not the old kitchen where we had earlier. Take a look! This kitchen quite arranged and the dish is too clean, I doubt that they have been buried for millennia.” replied Scarlett.

“And the bread was still good enough to eat, no doubt that it was never buried in millennia.” said Morran, as he ate greedily at a piece of bread and then continued with any food in the vicinity. Even as his wrinkled cheeks bulging like a balloon still he continued to eat everything he can put into his mouth.

In amazement they looked at Morran and then laughing as if this is the best moment they ever had on their live. Then Rey jumps for joy and shouting like a mad, “We did it! We’ve get out! We’re here! Melody wait for me, I will fought for your love.”

Alas his joys weren’t last long, for then he realizes that he is still in another world called Spheria, where the girl he dreamed of wasn’t at anywhere in this world. Well, at least he’s very happy to ever breathing a fresh air once again and free from the nightmare of buried inside a giant worm for indeterminable nights.

Another thing that made him not less surprised was the sword on his hand. He looked in wonder at the sword that has been returned to the form when he first found it, the broken blade. It was their fortune that the sword has turned back as they managed to get out of there. If the stone blade transform back into something useless before they couldn’t get out as Scarlett said, they might have to wait in the darkness little longer, or maybe forever.

However Scarlett herself shows different expression than others. Indeed the same joy does look on her, but her eyes and ears searching for something as if there was something strange in the room.

“What’s wrong?” asked Rey.

“No, but usually if you yelled like that someone in this house would come with shovel or anything they hold to knock and kick us out.” answered Scarlett.

“Maybe they have good sleep.”

“Owwh weeyhi heey huuh eefuuuf.^^^^” said Morran with full mouth.

“I guess not, have you heard anything?” asked Scarlett, her ears trying to search among the quietness of the room and faintly she found sobs, so muted as if restrained by fear.

“No, I just heard Morran eating.” answered Rey, yet a moment later he heard sudden sobs not far from him, instead the sound seemed comes from this room. Soon he looking around the room, there was nothing that drew his attention more than the cupboard below.

“You think the same with me?”

Rey walked over into the cupboard, the wooden floor got creaky even as he slowly stepped on it. For a second he heard the sound of sobbing as he got closer but instantly turned into muffled murmur. Rey peeking at the little gap of the cupboard, nothing he saw but blackness and when he opened it suddenly a rolling pin swung from it and hit his head.

“Run!” yelled a little boy.

Then out of the shadow of the cupboard a little girl ran out quickly. The boy trying to catch her up but Rey caught him first, so was Scarlett, she have held the little girl before she get into the door. The little boy was so insisted to escape but as he saw an old sinister face of Morran who like evil wizard, the boy was screaming in horror and fell with a limp.

“It’s okay. Don’t be afraid, we will not hurt you.” said Rey, gentle smile spreads beside the blood which flows from his temple then he hug him “It is okay. You’re safe now.”

The boy lowered his hand and let off the rolling pin on his hand. Scarlett let off the little girl and she immediately ran into his brother.

“May I know your name?” asked Rey.

“Cello.” answered the boy.

“That was cute name.” said Rey “Why you hiding Cello?”

The little boy gave no answer but bow his head with fear.

“Is it a boogeyman?”

They boy looked at him with curiosity.

“You don’t know about boogeyman?”

They boy shake his head.

“Well it was tall and grim and living in my house, so when I was a little kid I always hide in the cupboard like you. You know, I scared like you but my grandpa always there, take care of me and protect me. So I am not fear anymore.” said Rey. “We’re here to take care of you so you don’t need to fear anymore.”

“But she one of them.” said the boy pointing at Scarlett.

“Me?”

“Why you think she’s one of them?” asked Rey.

“Because she wear black like them.” answered the boy.

“Can you tell me about them?”

“Mom put us on the bed and when he tells the story of the Gingerbeard suddenly …”

They boy was so fearful that he was told the story haltingly but fast, even Morran the craziest among them did not understand what was told by the kid. But at least they could catch the headline, someone attacked this village and all the villagers were taken.

***

All eyes in Khatar looked up wonderingly, for two of four great cannon at the Gun Tower have lowered. One pointed to the mountain on the north and one to the west, aimed at the hills and forests outskirt the city. And there on the cannon to the west stood an old man. He was a man of short stature with short neat hair and grayish mustache. He stood straight and watching sparkling city beneath him as if he was the guardian of the city.

Suddenly he heard the sound of footsteps behind and as he turned, he saw Grunt walked over toward him.

“What’s the news?”

“Marius, he found them sir.”

“This soon?” said the old man wondered. “How did he found them?”

“Tonight they’re attacking another village and Marius was there.” said Grunt. “After the attack, he traced them and found their hideout. It was old Illitean castle, northwest here.”

“Any casualties?” asked the old man.

“So far he reported zero. But all the villagers have being taken.”

“Are they still alive?”

“Pardon me sir?”

“Those villager, are they still alive when being taken?” asked the old man with high tone.

“It seems so.” said Grunt with a gulp.

“Then listen to my orders! Gather the troops and prepare the Air Ship!”

“But sir, don’t we need to…”

“What?! You need them dead first then act?” exclaimed the old man. “Gather all the forces now! I want them ready in half hour.”

“Yes sir.”

The old man took a deep breath and looked at the night. The cold winds stormed and the shadows at the edge of his sight seemed crawling as if ready to cover his city with the darkness. But he has set the flame to fight against it.

***

Scarlett goes to look around the village along with Morran who walked aimlessly behind her, he babbling and chattering with the night sky above which he missed so much and without he realized he parted with Scarlett. Not once he said ‘hey ancient maid, where are you?’ to call her, but no one answered him except rustling leaf whispered by the night winds.

Scarlett surveyed the ground, an orb of blue light was on her hand and she scanned every trail in the village. Many footprints scattered on the ground and when she looked at it, the chaos seemed happens before her eyes and she felt that she could hear their scream, echoed inside her mind.

She continued to walk but then she stopped, stood and looked up at the sky. The night has opened once again for her and the moons shining brightly as if greeted her with joy with the stars celebrated her coming. This is the most wonderful night in her lifetime and felt much more beautiful than thousands of night she had ever passed. The air seemed fresher in her breath so she took a long deep breath as if he wanted to grab all the air in this world, never she felt so alive like this as if she’s being reborn.

Meanwhile Rey was out of the house and walked in the middle of the village. The soft orange glow of the streetlight glimmered on the pathway much less remind him of home. Everything calm and still there but that little boy’s story gave him a feeling of horror on that place. He even felt there’s a hiding shadow behind the woods and leaves peeking at him.

Suddenly he sniffed and as he turned around he found an old grim face grinning above the light to scare him.

“Oh you.” said Rey, he doesn’t look scared or even surprised at all when looked at Morran.

“You’re not afraid?” asked Morran.

“Well, your ‘perfume’ already told that you’re here.”

“What perfume? I don’t use perfume. So we had ‘talking-perfume’ now? Who’s invented it?”

Suddenly Scarlett appeared among them and he asked to Rey. “What about those kids?”

“They look comfort on their bed. But I could not imagine what will happen once they woke up and found all people they knew gone.” said Rey.

“Let me see!” Suddenly Scarlett holds his head and strokes his hair to check his wound “Strong little kid, but you’ll be fine in 2-3 days.”

“What’s going on here actually?” asked Rey.

“I don’t know. But like that kid said a group of people attacked this village and like you saw all the peoples minus those kids were taken away.”

“Are they bandit or something?” asked Morran

“They’re not too greedy for bandit or trafficker no riches have been stolen or looted. They even didn’t try to break anything except doors.” answered Scarlett. “After all they had same footprint, for a group of bandits they’re all too well-suited.”

“Do you think they were …” Rey trying to remember that name “… Azgalor army?”

“The Federation did this?”

“I don’t think so. I had spent seasons with them in Silent War so I knew their works. They were rude bastard, this village would be done by flame and smoke if deal with them. No, this is not them, this is someone different.” said Scarlett “The real question isn’t about who they are but where they came from. All trail spread only inside the village, no trail of in and out as if they came from nowhere. Maybe if your Volk friend was here he could track them.”

“I’m afraid that young Volk will be good for nothing.” said the deep voice, who suddenly out of the shadow of the trees. “That Volk youngling would trace as far as you could see the footprints.”

“Marcus?!” called Rey.

“Marius.” stated him. “Oh and both your friend has been taken away by them along with other villagers.”

“What?!” said Rey shocked.

“Calm down. They’re okay, at least for now.” said Marius. “It seemed our enemies need them alive. They use some sleep magic, most likely Kethurron from the flash of the green light, then took them away.”

“How?” asked Scarlett.

“Raider, the Serpent Gate, an ultimate magic of Nehebu, one of legendary Spheres belong to those wicked kin. It could bring you from one gate to wherever the pair-gate placed just in a second, like your teleportation but farther. Volk tribe ever told that the Raider could reach the Sacred Forest from their burrows, it’s about Khatar to here.”

“It’s not make sense? It’s not their nature to do all of this or even took part on this.”

“I think the same way too. Their nature as scavenger and their creed on the death was the reason why we erased them on the list. They shall have politic or contract to no one, choose no side but to themselves and their currency was the death’s good, no common money or common gold could made them sign a contract. And now they took part on some kind of bandit ruckus.” said Marius. “Isn’t that worried you? The only reason why they did all of this is because there’s a great power calling them.”

“But they will not heed to any call, not even from the Dark Lord. They only bowed to the Witch Queen Astarte and maybe you had missed the class to know that the Queen had dead millennia ago.” said Scarlett. “Doesn’t matter what motivated them what is matter now is do you know where they have been taken?”

“Use this and you will find out.” said Marius, as he tossing a Sphere to Scarlett.

Scarlett caught the Sphere. She was frowned unexpectedly and a look of dismay was on her face when she looked at the creature inside the Sphere, it was like midget in hooded-robe with livid and wrinkled face like it was melting wax and its eyes like hollow on fire. Strongly she pressed her hand when grasped it as if she wants to crush it.

“What is that?” asked Rey.

“Charon, the soul stealer.” answered Scarlett. “With this Sphere you can control someone just by made them wearing a ‘possession’.”

“Possession?”

“An object which possessed the power of this Sphere, mostly precious one, ring, necklace or anything that will be wore on your body, willingly. When they wore that object you can command them whatever you want. People with lack of intelligence or with heart burdened were easy to control with this.”

“Looking at your face it seems more evil than that.”

“It wasn’t called Soul Stealer for nothing. To create a ‘possession’ you must take someone’s life and it wasn’t usual murder but horrible one. By killing them you wickedly stealing their soul and after death the soul will not rest but dwells in the object which you made as ‘possession’, being slave to the one who hold the Sphere, or one who murdered them.” said Scarlett then he turned to Marius with look of dismay on her face. “I never know if you keep such wicked Sphere on your gauntlet.”

“I took it from Flamberg, the dragon rider attacking our train.” said Marius. “Seemed he killed one of our Dragon Rider and stole his steed. But stealing a dragon wasn’t same as stealing a horse, that’s why he needs this to control that Wyvern.”

“Even so I will not have this wicked Sphere attached on me.”

“Wicked or not that was the only way to find those kids. They weren’t included on my mission, so I will not unsheathe my blade for them.”

“Still the same Marius as I remembered.” said Scarlett.

Then Scarlett attached the Sphere on her gauntlet. Doubt and refusal made her halted for a moment and when she used it she felt an evil will growing inside her, burdening her heart with cruelty and malice, and whispering her mind with many bad thought. But Scarlett was strong, both heart and mind, it didn’t harm or troubled her only stifling her a little. And suddenly everything turned colorless as if she looked into the world of emptiness. Then the earth like folded, plains, woods, marshes and walls had been pierced through by her in less than second until she found herself in some place. Dungeon it was looks like, many people lies there unmoving and lifeless in his eyes like they were statues. But there’s a one whom attract her attention as if she was the only living thing among them. She was familiar about her, and so was gray figure lays beside her. It was Eorin, and Aska was at her side.

She tried to called her but the girl gave no answer instead Scarlett like saw something, no it was more like she was recalled a part of Eorin’s memories into her mind, about a woman. She like felt a good feeling of love and yearning about the woman like being in the garden of everlasting springs. But suddenly she feels hatred as if the girl shared her feeling about a man, tall stature he was but Scarlett couldn’t see his face, even so he looks familiar in her eyes. Then she felt the presence of another thing, faint it was and looks like a thin vapor around the girl but its grew stronger to shape itself as the girl’s hatred take over the realms.

Scarlett dragged backward and suddenly he found herself hit Rey with her back. Fear and dismay still look on her eyes.

“Looks like you have no idea how to use it.” said Marius.

“At least I knew where the girl is, so was that old man held in another prison, and the winged beast lying on the wide plain, injured and weary.” said Scarlett, as she detached the Charon Sphere. “I’m glad you’re not lying about this Sphere.”

“Glad?”

“I’m glad that I don’t have to kill you for having this.” said Scarlett. “Better we go now and save them.”

“You’re made the point.”

“Wait how about those kids? Do we leave them alone here? You know this place was the crime scene of horror for them.”

“You don’t have to worry about them. Let me stay here and incubated them.” said Morran. “Beside I have more things to do here. Rolling on the ground, eat more food and hugging a tree.”

“Okay who is he? I don’t see him on your party before. And what he means with ‘incubate’ them?” asked Marius.

“Just a little souvenir from our short adventure, and he’s a bit …” said Scarlett as she twirled her finger near the temple, “But he’s good. We can rely on him. And I think what he means about ‘incubate’ was to take care of them.”

Marius then brought them to the stable. The horses neighed in fear when they got closer as if the horror doesn’t leave of the village.

“Hey, just easy!” said Marius tried to calm them down.

“Could you ride?” asked Scarlett to Rey.

“I had once when I was kid.”

“I think that’s enough.”

Three of them leaped to the horses. Marius riding his black stallion and Scarlett brought the brown horse, seemed it was the horse belongs to Eorin left in this village while Rey got a smaller horse.

Before long they set off. At great pace they crossed the somber plains with the moons shining brightly as if gazed at them. Two riders seem fine on their horses while the younger one shaken on the saddle as if he was riding a bronco whereas the horse was tame, galloping lightly and following the horse in front of it.

Chapter 22

Into the Lair of Evil

They had come to the feet of the stony hills and drew the reins to halt, but Rey pulled it too tight till the horse reared high and dropped him. Marius just glanced at him on his horse while Scarlett gives a hand to him.

“First time, huh?” said Scarlett, she speaks coldly, suppose they weren’t in serious situation she must be laughing at him now.

The moons went by into the west, but their distance seems getting away as if they took different path in the celestial. The sky was clear above them as the cloud was gathering in the distant north and the stars grew bright in the black dome. But the shadow grew bold before them and they stared it with frown, a marshes stretched in their silence and motionless like waiting peril. And there across in the distant, stood tall like a black mountain and darker than the western night, the old castle.

“Is that the castle?” asked Scarlett.

“Yes.” replied Marius. He keeps the reins and just standstill without any move.

“Is there any reason why we just stand here and watched the castle?”

“Zorom, a great terror beneath the rippling shadows. Unless you could teleported half mile in a single leap I suggest you shall not pass the marshes.”

“Zorom? What is it?” asked Rey.

“A huge serpent, huge enough to swallowed us with our horse in one snap. And the worst thing is they are pretty fast, before quarter mile they might have us to be swallowed.” said Scarlett, “Any idea?”

“Rode as fast as possible, if lucky enough just one of us will get eaten.”

“That’s your idea?”

“Not really, we just served one of our horses to the Zorom. In my reckoning we will had there before it finished the dinner.” said Marius. “Hey kid! Get off your horse, you rode with her.”

Rey jumped down from the horse immediately. Pity and guilt fell upon him at the same time when looking at the horse.

“Yeah and how your plans do that? The horse even more aware of danger beneath than us.” asked Scarlett

Marius suddenly jumped down to approached riderless horse. He chattering and whistling to the horse while stroked it. None of them both knew what he doing now but then the horse bowed a head and looks very calm than before. A look of dismay was on Scarlett face when she looked that.

“I’m sorry my friend. Once this is all done I promise will make a great tomb for you.” said Marius.

Then without cue or command from him the horse ran away, hoof along the edge of the marshes till it become a little shadow running in the distance. Then the horse turned, set foot on the dark marshes as if doesn’t aware of what lies beneath it. Among gloomy silence there’s only splashing sounds of galloping horse in the distant.

Suddenly, as the horse galloping over the marshes, a big splash came beneath the surface followed by the sounds of whining horse.

“Now!” yelled Marius.

They rode swiftly across the marshes. At quick pace Rey looked at the distant shadow, black and smooth it seemed in the moonlight, twisting on the black surface with its huge and long shape. He’s hold on tight on Scarlett and he shuddered as he looked at the black surface beneath as though that creature will sprang out of it to pounces them.

They have passed the peril as they stepped at the edge of the knoll. The black mountain that looks small in the distance suddenly loomed up straight before them, grim and tall and less ruined by age. Three of them leaped from their horses. Scarlett looked up at the dull towering walls. It was somber and filled with the dry moss, and leaning on it was black leafless tree that slept during this season. She also oversees around but as far as her eyes could see there’s nothing there, neither movement nor sounds around them but the cold wind blows the weeds which withered upon the black knoll. Rey turned to look back into the marshes. The great serpent he seen no more and the marshes turned again into their grim silence as if waiting for new preys.

“We divide our task. You two go and find your friends, possibly the other villagers also held with them.” said Marius, as he offered a Charon Sphere to Scarlett.

“I don’t want to use that anymore and I don’t need to, I remember clearly where they are.” said Scarlett. “And what you gonna do?”

“I have to make sure of something. See you later.”

“C’mon Rey!” said Scarlett, they both ran away and at once vanished before the wall.

“Good luck.” said Marius, as he looked at the old wall.

***

Scarlett moved in flash beyond the stone walls and floors, bringing Rey with her. They’re down the winding hall and stairs, leaped in less second from one room to another. Moonlight flows through the windows and thrust the cracks to guide them in the darkness, but still they found nothing except old room and dimness. Instead, the further they get into, the more they felt trapped in.

“Nothing happened so far and we found nothing.” said Rey.

“Of course there’s nothing. Troubles always come out when we want to get out.”

A bright light blinded their eyes suddenly as they both get into some place. For a moment they could not see anything but all white, too long they were in the dimness till the light blinds them.

Faintly their eyes caught shade of black right before them. But then, as their sight had normal again to clearly seen what the black shape was, Scarlett immediately drew her sword and brandished it to hundreds … no, maybe a thousand and more of Phantom around them. But strange, after a moment there’s nothing happened, no attack or even moves came of them. Scarlett lowered her sword but she did not lessen her guard at all. With doubt and alert she drew near, and waved her hand in front of their face. Yet they don’t react at all, they just stood and facing forward in stillness as if they’re statue. Scarlett checked them quickly but carefully. She saw there’s a breathing hose at their mouth extends to the rear and when he followed it she found something like poles behind them. It held them in their armpit till they could stand upright.

“What are they?” said Rey.

“I do not know, I never seen them before thought few part of their style bit similar to Azgalor forces. And this chamber … it looks like newly built among the old walls and ruins before.” said Scarlett, looked at white vast chamber. “We’d better hasten to save your friend. I had feeling that they weren’t always in sleep like this.”

Scarlett held him on his shoulder and in a flash the white chamber turned into an old corridor. To their surprise they found not only the dimness on that old corridor but also black shape stoop before them with yellow eyes stared at them. Rey gasped and a sudden fork of lightning sprang out of his hand, stroke the Phantom in the wild blue flash. Shortly the lightning faded away and in the dimness the Phantom fall before them.

Scarlett bent down immediately checking the Phantom. He didn’t move at all but the yellow eyes behind the helmet open still.

“Is he dead?”

“None of your Sphere could take someone’s life. He just stunned, paralyzed if I could say.” said Scarlett. “Even though, it was very strange in common way. The Coral Imp granted us magic but just little lightning, it used to stun the enemies and thus give us pause to attack. But this one down only by one lightning of you, either you’re very great at magic or they’re too weak, while they had swept many villages before.”

They continue their search, teleported from one chamber to another. But now the old castle has awakened, the shadow of castle wandering around along their way down, they had shape of human and bold than the dimness surround with yellow eyes turned on them, and sometimes a green flash shot from their hand. Both of them doubled their pace and alertness, either passed the enemies away and vanished, or took them down with a stroke of lightning.

After many chamber and corridor they have passed, and the black guard they have brought down suddenly they halted in some old corridor. No enemies were sighted there, only ghastly voices from above echoed by old walls and stairs.

“Wait here!” said Scarlett.

Scarlett vanished before her eyes leaving him alone in that dimness. Long enough he waiting while the ghastly voices grow strong and he heard also a sound of footstep drew closer, but it sounds faintly as if whatever it was aware of him. Rey walked slowly to find out, but suddenly he startled by a hand on his shoulder.

“Hey it’s me.” said Scarlett, suddenly behind him. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing, just my thought.” answered Rey. “Where are you from?”

“Seek our friend. Beneath us was a dungeon, old but seemed just cleaned up. Everyone was there and they had sleep tight but I couldn’t find Aska and Eorin. Seemed the enemy has taken them away for a reason that we don’t know.” said Scarlett “Let’s go!”

“Don’t we need to get them out first?”

“Better if we let them stay below for a moment. If we get them out, most of them will get killed by the guard, even if they could get out from the castle alive they would be a snack for the snake outside.” said Scarlett. “The best thing we could do for know was call a backup and hope we don’t late this time.”

“Late? What do you mean late?”

“Below I just found a hundred people and more. Probably from the village we had just visited. But there’s a few villages that had been attacked in the last month and many people had taken away before this, about a thousand and more in my count.” said Scarlett. “Wherever enemy brought them I don’t think it was a good thing.”

“Did Aska and Eorin …?”

“Relax. Most likely they still here, maybe just held in another part of this castle.” said Scarlett. “Damn, I should take that Sphere. Now we must find Marius.”

“And face those black soldiers again?”

Scarlett gave no answer, her eyes fixed on the darkness at the end of corridor. Unexpectedly she vanished before his eyes and at once there’s a sudden burst of lightning at the end of corridor. Next thing he saw, Scarlett it seemed, fell upon her knees and before her stood a tall figure.

Rey ran immediately and stroke with the lightning. But the tall figure caught it with the bare hand and reflected it, and so the lightning strike back to its own source and stunned Rey. Both of them beaten in no time and now he saw a gleam of steel next to her neck till Scarlett’s face revealed.

***

The sound of piano echoed in that dimness, listened with grief by somber walls and old pillars. The rhythm was sad and slow like played with deep sorrow but every press of the fingers were strong as if contain anger and vengeance.

The fingers banged on the piano to a ‘ding’ echoed in the hall. And there, far behind him someone has stood in the wrecked entrance. He was a man, tall and wore a dark hood. As he walked he threw back his hood to his face revealed. He was looks like Iceberg but older, gaunt but looks manly as if he had passed many fierce battles. He had scar in his forehead, shaped like a jigsaw, the one he proud of, for the high general of Ishtar carved it on his face with ice magic.

“Have something to report Blitzberg?”

“Our scout reported that two airships are on the way here.” answered Blitzberg. He looks uncomfortable in that chamber. Indeed it was an old chamber, the air was humid and stuffy, but he felt there’s something in the air weakened him. And he senses something there, roost within the shadows with something like sail glimmering black in the moonlight which pierced broken windows, and huge eyes gleamed in the dimness gazed at him.

“So they took our bait.” said the mysterious man. Then he throws a Sphere to Blitzberg. “Activate all of our forces. Make sure no one survive, both them and us.”

“And how about the rats wandering in the castle?” asked Blitzberg.

“They will come to us. I’ve talked to Marius and we make a deal, those kids for our design.”

“That’s not Marius I knew, he far off to be called hero. Undoubtedly he will leave with our design and care not about them.” said Marius. “Let me deal with him while he still here and I will get our design back.”

“I believed you and Marius are equal in battle but he was not alone. The boy I do not know but the red-haired one will give you more trouble than you could imagine. Besides, your battle will risk the design to damage, since you both use lightning in battle.” said the mysterious man.

“I understand sir.”

“The design was our primary concern. Trade and reclaim it. As for the other I don’t care, let them perish with the rest.”

***

Scarlett trembled in pain. She tried to get away in flash but she could not, for the electrical shock disrupted her nerves and brain, disabling her to use any of her Spheres. Suddenly a shot of flame bolted toward the mysterious figure. At the same time Scarlett grabbed her sword and swung it. But the mysterious figure one step faster – swiftly he swung a sword to split the flame and at once cleave down to halt Scarlett’s blade. No pause between them, after flame Rey attacked the mysterious person with a fork of lightning once again and at the same time Scarlett sprang up and throw a punch. Both lightning and fist he caught them with the bare hand and quickly he took Scarlett closer and with the last light of blue sparks left on the hand his face was shown.

“Hey it’s me!”

“Marius?!” said Scarlett.

“Thank you for recognizing me.”

An orb of blue light kindled on her hand, beating the dimness in the corridor. Now Rey could see them both clearly. A foe in the dimness by the light turned into a friend he knew and he saw Scarlett took her sword. He ran to them immediately.

“Looking you both still a couple, I believe you haven’t found your friend yet.”

“You knew where they are?”

“Yes. But there’s something I want to show you first.”

Marius then brought them into a room located not far from there, about one level up and five steps from the stair. The room was quite small, about twelve meter per square, occupied only by pile of junk with dust and cobwebs. And there, one of the Phantoms lied still over the junks with the helmet off. Rey looked up and peered at the face hooded by the shadows. He was a man, maybe about fifty years old or more, nothing weird about him except he wore black vest.

“Who is he?” asked Scarlett.

“Our lost villager.” answered Marius.

“What?” Scarlett looks surprised.

“I’ve been checked him. With Charon Sphere that you cursed most I looked into his mind. Simple man, simple life, farm and forest most on his memories, never hold any weapons or used any Spheres. He also had zero experience on battle not even military training to be on that black vest and helmet.” said Marius. “The last thing he remembered was the Phantom attacked his village.”

“But how they could become … this?”

“Necron, sounds familiar to you?”

“You mean this is all like years ago? Before the battle of Elderon?” asked Scarlett.

“Most likely.” said Marius.

“Wait, this thing ever happened before?” asked Rey.

“Yes. Decades ago before the Battle of Elderon, the Dark Lord and his servants stormed small villages in the east of Azgalor and in the West Rim. Everyone missing like the village we visited but much worse. The village destroyed, burnt to smoke and ash, and on the street the blood flooded and it was not few to find a little part of the body scattered around. No one survived and we found no bodies but blood and ruin.”

“Then where’s everyone?” asked Rey.

“Collected.” said Marius coldly.

Scarlett glanced at Marius. For a second he saw there’s some grief in her eyes when she looked at him like she feels sorry about something.

“Collected? What do you mean by collected?”

“Those whom being slain, all those dead bodies were gathered,” Scarlett paused for a moment as if there’s some bitter feeling in his heart and dismay. “By his dark art the Dark Lord reanimated the dead body and enslaved them. Serve only to him and serve only to kil. Necron, the army of undead.” Scarlett continued.

“But it just fairy tale for public to relieve them that something like this would never happened again, that after the fall of the Dark Lord no one able to do something horrible like this ever again.” Marius added.

Scarlett switched the Sphere on her gauntlet with another one, a Sphere with some creature like snake sealed inside.

“The truth was we found out that the dead body was possessed by some parasite, it controlled their flesh, their dead bodies. Some of them even turned into monsters. Claws, tentacles, or any other part that we don’t have grew on them.”

Her eyes turned like a snake. The cold wall and old junk was dispersed into blackness but Rey and Marius glowing like they were a flame in the shape of human, and so was the man lied before him. However as she scanned the men in the black vest, she found another creature lies inside him, not moving but she felt that it still alive.

“But this one is different.” said Marius.

“Yes, this one was alive.” replied Scarlett. Then she checked his arm, a gauntlet worn on it, black and solid as if could hold against sword. And when she removed the padding on it, she was surprised as she found there’s few Spheres attached on it and one of it glows faintly as just being used.

“A Necron with magic, ever imagined about that?” said Marius. “All of this wasn’t about chaos or assault to our Kingdom, this is experiment.”

“But who? Except the Dark Lord himself no one could create them, and Artharis had made sure of it. All record, all script, all the knowledge of the Dark Lord for evil and malice he destroyed it by himself, including this.”

Suddenly the Phantom woke up with yellow eyes gazing mad at them. He trying to attack Scarlett but swiftly Marius took him down with a lightning stroke.

“What the hell is that?”

“Something inside him has woken up, seemingly.” said Marius. “A little strike of electricity did effective to take him down in an instant but that for temporary, need a greater stroke to kill something inside him but it will risk take his life too.”

“Could we save them? They’re still alive right?! There must be a way to bring them back to normal.” asked Rey.

“In the past my uncle along with another Aesir fought against Succubus, their queen, which gave birth to creatures inside and controlled them. That was hard battle, for the queen wasn’t used weapon but strike into our mind, give pain to our head as if something cracked your head as uncle told me. And after troublesome battle, they succeeded to kill her but then something unexpected happened, as it was dead all the Necron were fall down to the ground and none of them ever rose again.” said Scarlett. “Maybe if we found their queen and kill her we could bring them back to normal.” she continued.

“Or it could be turned worse.” said Marius.

“What worse?”

“All of them will die too along the queen,” answered Scarlett. “In the past this army made from the dead body so as the queen dead they’re all fall. But now they used a living person, we don’t know for sure what will happen to them after the queen dead.”

“We must take that risk.” said Marius.

“Did you know where the queen is?” asked Scarlett.

“I did. But knew where it is and seize it was a different matter.”

“Seize it? What do you mean?”

“I thought that someone sealed her in the Sphere and used it, to control him and the other by their own will. So the only way to free him and the rest of the others was we must grab that Succubus Sphere, unseal and kill it.” said Marius.

“Why’d you think that it was sealed inside the Sphere?”

“Well, as I look into his mind, someone was trying to make a link into mine. I don’t know who it was but I sense a dark and powerful mind, full of hatred but so much pain. He trying to attacked my mind but couldn’t, for the one inside him was fainted.” said Marius.

“Wait, if he could get into your mind then he already knew your presence here.”

“Ours exactly, all of us including both in his captive.”

“Aska? Eorin?” said Rey.

“Yes. And he wanted to trade with us.”

“Where they are now?” asked Scarlett.

Chapter 23

Cover Up

Along the way they were driven off by the Black Phantoms, they rose like shadows out of darkness and come in great number. And they no longer strike to sleep as before but to kill whoever considered as an intruder with a flash of light that could broke the walls. But the black troops weren’t the only enemies they had. Behind the shadows of walls and ceiling the Raiders crept on the sly, grope the stone with their stained claws and waiting to be on their back to attack.

Marius led the way, a flash of lightning rapidly spreads out of his hand and swept enemies down, and Scarlett keep clear off the Raider who leaped down from the shadow while Rey followed behind. The number of enemies he had bring down not as much as Marius or Scarlett but he were quite troubled by them. And at last they came to a large door where the abandoned throne lied behind.

“Is this the place?” asked Scarlett.

“Yes, and like you knew they were already aware of our arrival.” said Marius, as he pulling out a few daggers shaped like a forked tree branch with spiral ornament on the hilt.

“Set up the fences?”

Marius threw the daggers and it stuck into the wall on the either side. Marius then stretched his hands and at once a bright fork of lightning struck those daggers and create white bluish electrical fence.

“Whoever behind this door I believe he would give us much trouble and I don’t want any extra trouble with the Raiders and those peasant conscript.” said Marius. “Prepare yourself!”

“I’ve always.” said Scarlett.

“Me too.” said Rey, with sweat and bit trembled.

By strong push Marius opened the door. It swung with grinding sound and end with bam that echoed throughout the hall. The pillar stood firmly as if not devoured by time and the throne still represented its glory on the past. But even so it was nothing more than silent and dark hall which scavenged the shimmering light of the moons outside.

They walked slowly and keep close each other while aware on the shadows of the hall though after few moment there was no enemy rose from it. The only enemy was sat on the throne playing his three-edged sword and then he rose to greet them.

“Welcome my friend! I was waiting for you.”

“Long time no see Blitzberg.”

“Who is he? Looks like you have a good relationship.”

“He is Blitzberg, the oldest of Four Brothers, the most renowned assassin of Azgalor. The man we met in the train was his brother, so was the one with flying steed.”

“You mean Azgalor behind this?” asked Scarlett.

“I doubt it, though there’s such possibility. From the information I’ve got they had excluded from Special Forces, three of them. Even I heard that they become national most wanted after killed a politician there.” said Marius.

“Not a politician Marius but many. The war may end but skilled people like us always on demand, both for politic and business. But after many tasks our clients considered that our existence was quite dangerous, so they tried to bury us. One murder to set us up, one murder to covered many others. In Azgalor one treason was enough for us to deserve death.” said Blitzberg “But we are live.”

“You were, now it is only you.” Marius mocked.

For a while rage and wrath was looked on him but soon a sly smile spread on his face as if he already had his vengeance. A moment later some Raider brought their friends in, both of them tied in chain and their mouth shut by cloth. Then the Raider pushed them both to knees before Blitzberg’s feet.

“Aska! Eorin!” cried Rey, but as he stepped forward, Blitzberg stun them with a lightning out of his hand.

“Not so fast young man. Trade must be made if you want them back.” said Blitzberg, threatened with blue flash pointed at them. “But I don’t know if he want make a trade or not.”

“This is what you want right?” Said Marius, as he shows orange Sphere on his hand, a Sphere which contain the map of this castle.

“Is it my Sphere?” said Scarlett.

“Yes. And that’s the reason they hunt you at first place.” said Marius. “Let them go first and I will throw it to you.”

Blitzberg ordered the Raider to bring them both to Marius. And like before the Raider pushed them to fell and laugh while leaving, their laughter sounds like loud chuckles in their ears. Rey immediately get them and tried to get off their chains. They both look glad when saw Rey and Scarlett still alive before them, but then their faces turned upset as they saw Marius, especially Aska.

“Here you go.” said Marius, as he throw it to Blitzberg.

For a moment Blitzberg looked at it and examined it. Later he gave it to one of the Raider and swiftly he crawling away and gone within the shadows of the wall.

“But why they still want it? We’re already here, we’re knew where they are.”

“Because that Sphere does not only show this castle but there’s something else inside it, right?”

Blitzberg answered with a cold smile.

“What’s inside?”

“Another map but I don’t know what it was exactly, for it was encrypted. As I constructed it with magic it shows the map of entire Lucretia but in an instant it shattered. I don’t know if it shows another devil’s lair of them in Lucretia or they have bad plan to our city, if only I could bring it to Shell maybe we could opened it and know their plan.”

Both sides stared each other. There pause for a moment, only sound of ringing chains in their ears.

Then Scarlett asked, “Why you didn’t do it? This is not you. Marius I knew would leave away with it. Finished his mission whatever it takes and never look back. Yet you trade the Sphere with them.”

“Because you ever told me that Ishtar Soldier fought to protect peoples not to finish missions. And if what we do now would killed more and many people then we will fought harder to protect them.” said Marius.

Scarlett looked at him with smile. On the other side Rey had broke their chain with a small blast of Gremlin Sphere. And as they’re free Eorin slapped him at once but then she hugged him tightly.

“I thought I lost you. Glad to see you again.” said Eorin.

“Where you gone? How did you survive?” asked Aska.

“Long story, I’ll tell you later.” said Rey.

“Save your reunion kids, we had more things to do.” said Marius.

Aska rose before Marius and suddenly he throw a punch to him, but Marius caught it first. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”

“What’s the matter?” asked Scarlett.

“He stole our Sphere and leaved us in the village.” said Eorin.

“Is that true?” asked Scarlett to Marius, but Marius give no respond. “We talk about it later, for now we have enemy to deal with. Do you bring their gears?”

“Of course, I prefer brought this than having them as burden.” said Marius as he tossed a bag to Aska.

“Gear yourself up! For they won’t let us escape so easily.” ordered Scarlett to both of them.

“I don’t believe this. So they brought dragon, blast our train and broke the bridge only for one Sphere? Why don’t they ask or steal it from us? That’s more elegant rather than do all this damage.” said Aska look upset while wearing his gear, “How did they know we have that little thing anyway?”

“We didn’t.” said Blitzberg, then all eyes looked at him with wonder. “At the train we actually marked Marius.”

Everyone then looked at Marius with suspicion, “I know you’re the one who brought trouble among us.” said Aska.

“Actually we want to send some message to him. We care not about a red-haired woman with three younglings on their holiday trip, until that girl shaped her ice,” Said Blitzberg looked to Eorin. “See, Iceberg was very advanced with ice. He could sense any cold, any frost around him. When that girl shaped this castle with her ice magic, my brother knew that it was the Sphere we looking for. I don’t know how it could be on your hand. The last time I saw it a man in silver mask took it.”

“Azuna.” said Scarlett.

“To retrieve the Sphere then became our first priority though it was very urgent to send some message to Marius.”

“What kind of message is it till they need assassins to send it?” said Scarlett wondered.

“Just location of this place.” answered Blitzberg. “It should be a simple task. My brothers just need to fight him for a while and then they sloppily but deliberately spoil our next attack so he can track us and sent this location to Khatar. The plan seemed succeeded as my Raiders report that two Royal Fleets are on their way here now.”

“What he talked about?” asked Aska.

“Cover up.” said Marius. “Kidnapping hundred to thousand villagers and all this secret experiment stuff, they would become top on the list for sure. The only way they could escape from this is by make our own government at their own will cover it up for them.” said Marius.

“But how they gonna do that?”

“On the way here we found out that all those Phantoms were the villagers.” said Scarlett.

“What?! How?”

“It’s long to explain. But if the Royal Forces arrive here and meet them in the battle, they will sweep all of them, no hesitation and no remorse, without they know that those Phantoms were the lost villagers. There will be no victory or honor, only slaughter and horror.”

“And with Royal Forces killed their own peoples it will be disgrace for our government. They will cover it up no matter how. No news about this will arise to public, cover story will be made maybe some trafficker or bandit do this all, and it will be unsolved case for decades or centuries.” said Marius. “And above all their plan succeeded, they could leave untouched.”

“This is insane. They couldn’t be get away from this.” said Aska looks frustrated.

“Unfortunately they could.” said Marius. “We will busy to clean and bury this mess while they took a holiday.”

Before them Blitzberg smiled as if in victory. Then he looked out at the night outside through broken windows. There he saw the shadow of the winged serpent flying under the white moon, as silent as the night itself.

Suddenly Rey stepped forward to his attention, “I won’t let you do that. I won’t let you took their life and easily run away.” There’s some anger on him as he looked at Blitzberg. Yet it wasn’t anger by justice but by some painful feeling of his past. “I will help them, I will set them free and I will stop you.”

“We will.” said Scarlett, patted him on the shoulder and at a moment his anger recede and turn into fairness. “We will set them free and you will set no battle.” said Scarlett, as she looked at Blitzberg with the sword pointing at him.

“So there’s a way to set them free, how?” asked Eorin.

“Just take the Sphere on his hand and destroyed it.” answered Scarlett.

“Then why we don’t take him first?” said Eorin. All her Spheres glow brightly as though she was ready to create powerful magic.

Marius drew his sword. He held tightly as if he will swing it faster and stronger than before. “Then let’s do that. End this quickly before the battle outside started and everything will be okay in the end.” said Marius, “Except for you puzzle-face.” said Marius to Blitzberg.

Aska stared Blitzberg with rage like he wanted to transform immediately into beast and attack him. “When this is end, I will go to see LCE88 Concert in Namtar Dome.” said Aska with serious expression. Everyone turned to Aska, especially Eorin who looked at him with frown.

“Good spirit you have. Unfortunately take me alone wasn’t as easy as you thought especially when I’m not alone.”

Blitzberg pulled the lever beside the throne and then the iron bars behind him pull up slowly with tinkling. There’s a silence for a moment and they stared anxiously into the darkness behind iron bars. Suddenly two giants break out of the darkness with roar like beast. The ground shaken as they striding up and recklessly they swung their weapon to break everything around.

“Is that what you called as ‘extra trouble’?”

“Phantoms and Raiders outside were ‘extra trouble’ but they are big problem, very big.” said Marius.

“What we do now?”

“Plan B. Four of you take them both, let me dealing with him.” said Marius.

“Plan B?! What plan B? Besides why don’t you take them both and we will face that one little guy,” replied Aska.

“Believe me, facing the little guy isn’t as easy as you imagine.” said Marius. “Those Gargantuas easier to fight, they are simply a pile up of muscles with no brains”

“But still …” said Rey, looked at both giant with horror, especially when the red eye stared back at him.

“Ok, two for one. Rey, you go with me! Aska, Eorin, can I count on you both?!”

“Just leave one to us.” said Eorin.

Scarlett teleported right away and by her sword stabbed Gargantua deep in the shoulder. The giant screamed, waving its mace and destroyed everything to chase her. Rey forced to duck and crept to evade with rubbles showered at him. Eorin on the other side have succeeded to burn the rage of the giant by her flame. The Gargantua goes berserk with its axe and chased them both.

There’s only Marius and Blitzberg left on that hall. They stood still and facing each other without care of what happened around them.

“Long time no see Marius. I see you still wearing a cheap sword.”

“And you still wear that rusty screwdriver.”

***

Scarlett moved like a ghost, vanished and appeared to and fro, wounding Gargantua here and there. Faced opponent like her the giant just swung the spiked mace aimlessly and spinning to nowhere. On the other side Rey just could stand still and clutching his sword, he doesn’t know what to do to fight against the monster which beyond his imagination and strength. He had just learned to use a sword and Sphere even to approach them was impossible for him, let alone fight like Scarlett. With a big mace swinging blindly like that, drew closer will be like drew himself into death.

“Looks like I’m attack for nothing.” Scarlett stood behind him in sudden and grasp for breath. While the giant still there swung the weapon recklessly without knew that Scarlett wasn’t there anymore. It seemed all her attack had no effect against the size of Gargantua though the sword on her hand was covered with the black blood of the giant, thick and dirty like the blood of damned creature from underworld. “The body was too big for my sword.”

“You need one big blow of your sword to defeat something like that.” said Rey.

“That’s it, Rey use your Gremlin on my blade. Use it up into max.” said Scarlett, as she handed her sword to him.

“But your sword will turn into pieces like the one I had before.”

“Relax, Enigma wasn’t ordinary sword. She had endured against steel and magic all this time.” said Scarlett took a knife and brandished it. “Charge it up as much as you could, I buy you some time.”

Once again she ran and teleported to fight against the Gargantua.

***

Aska and Eorin ran upstairs. The shadows lied beneath them and the silence fell above them but the giant was no longer behind to chase them, no shape or sound of heavy tramp after them as if they had escaped from it.

After took many stairs they’ve found themselves on the ruined garden at the top. Many trees grew big there but they were leafless and it seemed had not lived for many seasons, even one has cloven by lightning. No grass or greenery but abandoned barrens and in the middle of garden a fountain was built, cracked and waterless, covered by bleak moss. Above them was a dome of black sky, stars crowded sparkling in their silver light and the moons shining bright with the pale light gleamed on the ruined garden. Down there they could see marshes stretched in stillness bordered by gloomy forest. Everything calm and quiet over there, both of them feel glad but at the same time worried.

Suddenly an axe rose before them, swung and cloven to hook followed by the knotted hand grabbed the edge. Soon a huge shadow jump over and landed with heavy stomp behind them. The shadow rising tall under the moonlight with a red eye stared at them. The Gargantua roared, swung the axe and parted them.

“Have no brains?! He have axe to kill us.” said Aska.

Then he sprang and turned into big wolf at once to attack the giant. He bites the giant on the shoulder but once he did that the foul taste of black blood and rotten flesh filled his mouth, and so he let off his bite right away and spew whatever in his mouth now – never he felt an awful taste on the mouth like that.

Suddenly a big hand swung and grabbed him on the neck. The giant slammed him on the ground and broke a fountain with him to at last display him on leafless tree. The giant raised the axe, ready to kill him like a woodcutter will slay a wild dog. But then from behind, a blazing little beast leaping high and once it hit the giant it burst into wild flame burn on the shoulder. The giant roared and turned to Eorin right away.

Even with the flame blazed on the shoulder, the giant stood firm looked at her as if the flame doesn’t hurt it at all. Then the giant ran to her and so the flame swept on their own, but suddenly another beast attacked from behind. The claws gripped on the chest and shoulder but no more bites, for he doesn’t want that foul taste ever came again to his mouth. Quickly the giant caught him and roughly pull him away without even care about scratched or torn. The giant now choked the big wolf, raised him and the axe to kill, but again a little red beast leaping high on it to the flame burst on its mask. The giant threw Aska off and getting away with head burnt.

Aska turned to his human form while holding pain, “Do we defeat it?”

“I don’t think so. It’ll only get mad after this.” said Eorin. “Nothing we can do to defeat such thing.”

“No, there’s one way.” said Aska look so serious and he stared at Eorin. “There’s one shape left.”

“Don’t ever think to use that. You have not mastered ‘it’ perfectly.”

“That’s why I must use it. My consciousness made me couldn’t use Animorph Sphere optimally. Less strength and slower, even the real Amarok much stronger and wilder than the shape of my wolf.” said Aska. “To fight the monster we must become a monster.”

Eorin slaps him on the face. “Don’t think like that. You know what will happen to you if you force to use that? You couldn’t return to human again, you will lose yourself, wandering with no soul as a beast.” said Eorin. Shortly after she felt strange, for she was no longer see faint glimmer reflected on her friend’s eyes.

“Watch out!” cried Eorin.

Suddenly a great blow of axe fell from above and broke the ground into a hole with the cries of the young girl.

“Eorin!” shouted Aska.

In the shadows the giant stood with the axe rested on the ground. The flame flickers no more on its head but partly the flame have consumed the mask, showing the skinless head around the eye. Aska looked for Eorin but he found no sign of her except a scepter lied on the ground. The giant walked over to him and dragged the big axe, its red eye stared at the boy with hostility as if it doesn’t looked him as a little human but a beast to fought and killed.

No fear was on him anymore when the giant drew closer instead a great rage rose on him, yet it was not strong feeling of anger or any human emotion, rather it was like something wild inside him trying to take his insanity. And without he knew one of his Spheres was glowing.

All of sudden a hand grabbed the scepter and from the hole Eorin climbed up. Then, as she came out of the hole she found the giant have slapped Aska to the boy hit the tree. So hard it was that Eorin could hear the sound of cracked wood.

“Aska!” cried Eorin.

Aska rose immediately shortly after. For a while Eorin look happy to found him all right, but suddenly a dreadful feeling fell upon her as she heard strange laughter came of him.

***

There was twang and clapping sounds. They fought not only by clashing the steel but also forks of blue flash sprang out of their hand, leaped wildly all over the place, tore the wood and shattered the stone. And after many strokes and magic at last they paused and stood by. Marius took breath as much as he could while Blitzberg stood steady and easily hold the sword with three fingers as if the fight doesn’t wearying him.

Two battles they both had in the past and survived. Both were equal in the sword art and they used the same element of magic, whenever they met the forks of blue lightning always around them. But day and night Marius had dealt with two great foes. He was exhausted and wounded, and now he was forced to face the greatest among them.

Suddenly Blitzberg sprang forward and do powerful thrust. His curved sword had hold off the attack but then a blue light came from his right aimed at his body. Marius swiftly holds the wrist and so the lightning sprang out and stroke wildly at the roof. But soon, even he had held the steel and evaded the magic he was repelled by some forceful kick. And without waiting a breath Blitzberg sprang forward again and attack him.

***

“Is this enough?!” shouted Rey as he shows the sword, the light of the destructive magic has completely wrapped on its blade.

Scarlett got distracted by his shout and so the giant fist got her to crush the wall.

“Scar… !” shouted Rey, so surprised and frightened he was till he couldn’t finished a word.

The giant grinning with nasty teeth clenched hard on the lipless mouth. But strange, as the giant pull out his hand from cracked wall, no one was there.

“Don’t call me that, I hate it,” said Scarlett, who had stood behind him.

“You’re alive.” said Rey looks happy.

“Of course I am. Escape from the death was my skill. But that was almost.” said Scarlett. “Now give me…, watch out!”

Scarlett shoved Rey strongly to fell backward and at once a spiked-mace slammed between them. Rey shocked and frightened as he saw the big mace close before him while Scarlett got scratched on her arm and had her gauntlet broke till all her Spheres scattered on the floor.

Immediately the giant swept and grab her. She tried to get away but he had no weapon to even scratch the big hand and with Silverhare Sphere no longer on her possession she couldn’t escape anymore. The giant raised her with other hand clenched ready to kill.

Rey give a great shout, with all effort and strength he had, and Sneakers game on his mind he throw the luminous sword on his hand. It flying up and spinning with high speed and at once, as the luminous sword touched the giant on its back, the light turned into a great blast.

No scream or cries came out of the giant and suddenly it fell with Scarlett still in the big hand. Quickly Scarlett jumped out of the knotted hand and took her sword to stance. But the giant doesn’t move at all, only lidless eye open still.

“Are you all right?” asked Rey.

“I’m okay. Thank you.” said Scarlett, as she lowering her sword.

A moment later, as they felt safe, Scarlett collecting her Spheres while Rey looked at the fallen giant, so big and awful, and the smell of rotten flesh came out from the blast wound. His curiosity drew him closer and as he bent down to touch the mask, suddenly the lidless eye turned on him. Rey was shocked and frightened, he ran backward immediately as the giant rose up unsteadily with painful roar.

“What kind of hell created them?” said Scarlett looked at the giant with dread.

“Did my strike failed?”

“The one you did on the Grove was much more powerful than this.” said Scarlett, she then glanced at Rey with strange look. “How could you have more desire to kill me than this ugly giant?”

“I’ve never had a problem with women if that’s what you mean.” replied him. “What should we do now?”

Chapter 24

Dragon of the Mountain

Aska screamed wildly and trembled, his hand tightly griping the walls and scratching the floor till hurting his own fingers as though the young man doesn’t care about himself.

“Aska stop It! Stop it right now!” cried Eorin.

But Eorin’s cries was fainted in his ears and soon disappeared like faded dream. Thereupon another shape presents on his mind, something wilder and powerful. The shape grasped him and brought him away into the place beyond darkness and loneliness till there’s nothing left of him but his living body.

Felt that her friend be gone from himself, Eorin tried to save Aska. With all will and power she have left, she casted a tremendous magic of ice and sealed him inside huge ice crystal. For a moment everything seemed fine but she forgot that the real threat still nearby. And now the huge shadow came behind her with the axe raised. The axe swung and clove the stone floor. Eorin managed to leap and evade at the last moment, but she hit the wall to fell. And hadn’t yet she breath for relieved the Gargantua stood tall before him, raising the big axe to kill.

Suddenly the giant halted its axe when hearing a sudden roar came out of the crystal. Then the red eye fixed on the ice, it was glimmering under the moon but the shadow grew inside and cracking the ice. A deep silence fell upon them, as if waiting something.

Suddenly a huge beast breaks out of the ice. Fell Drake the wingless dragon, the dwellers of the misty mountains stretched in the north of Azgalor where the sky always gray and the sun only a golden haze within the woods. It was brawny and fierce, hard and rough scales covered almost all the body, long tail dangling like a whip and sharp curved claws as it could capable to tore a steel armor. And like a beast that had been just awakened from the slumber it gave long roar into the night.

The dragon beast stared to both the abominable giant and the little girl, no friend or foe in that yellow serpent eyes but prey. Soon it ran wildly to them. The giant cleaved the axe to crack the floor but the dragon swiftly evades and leaped to attack the giant from behind.

Innumerable sharp teeth bite the Gargantua from shoulder to neck and the claws sticking deep to slung on the giant. Painfully the giant cast loose the ax to grab the beast on its back and even banging against the walls to get rid of it. But all the efforts seemed in vain, for the dragon was too tough and wild, instead his sharp curved claws thrust deeper as it could be elongated.

Gargantua was roaring in pain but the dragon beast didn’t stop its ferocity. The dragon bites, tore and ripped the rotten flesh of Gargantua to at last the giant fell with torn body and black blood spilled filling the fountain ruin.

Like the beast had conquered his opponent, the Fell Drakes standing proud over fallen Gargantua. Then under the moons the dragon beast roared in triumph and beyond the night it echoed.

***

“Give me your Gremlin!” cried Scarlett, “Now!”

Without further ado Rey handed his Gremlin Sphere to Scarlett. “What will you do?”

“Just stay close to me!” told Scarlett.

Then she casts countless points of light upon the dimness, it was the magic of light like she was casted before but there’s something different on it. Calmness and peace of soft blue light he felt no more, for the scattering little flares which floating around them has a golden glare, amazing but somehow frightening.

The giant rise up and shouted angrily. But with one point of her finger Scarlett commanded the lights and brought them flying around the giant like swarm of fireflies. The lights bring much annoyance to the giant, seemingly, so the Gargantua swung a hand to sweep it.

The light, as it swept out by the giant it burst and turned into chain explosion in the air. The castle was like shaken with growling sound like thunder across the black marshes. Everything there was destroyed, the old wall turned into ruins and the pillars razed into rubbles. For a moment there’s a silence, only the sound of falling and scattered rubbles heard there, smoke and dust clouding the whole place. Then as the winds swept it there stood Rey and Scarlett inside the blue dome which protected them.

“What was that?” asked Rey.

“Magic fusion, combine the ability of Firefly and Gremlin Sphere then you will get self-destruct fairies.” said Scarlett. “Let’s catch up our friend shall we! They might need our help now.”

“Sure!” said Rey.

Both of them went away. As he running Rey looked back, the giant lied still buried by rubbles and seems this time it will not awaken anymore.

***

A small knife stabbed Marius on his waist. It was secret knife which hidden in the hilt on purpose to steal an attack and stab enemies when two blade crossed each other. Common technique used by an assassin like Blitzberg and Marius was quite off guard till he fell on that trick. The knife in his waist injured him seriously to make his movement jumbled. Now he tends to defend himself rather than to think about how to bring down the enemy.

With one strong blow Blitzberg breaks Marius’s sword followed by lightning stroke out of his hand till he repelled to the end of balcony. Marius defeated. He sat sprawled and wounded. He spit a blood from his mouth and the wound at his waist get worse.

Blitzberg walk over to him and pick up his sword that has been broken. “Still the same Marius, always used cheap sword.” Blitzberg mocked, as he threw it behind.

Marius leaned himself on the baluster gasping for breath, his eyes looks jaded and resigned, even to stare at Blitzberg who already stood before him. It seemed that he wasn’t able to fight anymore. However the light of the Sphere in his hand remains glowing. Wonder what kind of magic he will cast at the end of his life.

On the other side Blitzberg smiled arrogantly, for the victory seems sure for him. “What will you do now Marius? Stun me with little electricity? So pathetic of you.” said Blitzberg.

***

“Aska! Aska! Wake up!” Eorin tried to call her friend, but how much she called him Aska made no answer but cold thrum of the dragon beast. It seemed her friend was already lost and fell under the beast before her.

“Aska!” She called him again but once again her sounds couldn’t get into his friend, instead it just invited the beast to kill.

The mountain dragon ran to her. With one sway of her scepter she creates a thick ice to shield herself. But the Fell Drake was so fierce and mighty, one pounce of the beast and the ice shield was blown to pieces to her fell, and before she could get up the dragon has stood nearby with fierce grin as if ready to tear up her tiny body.

The dragon beast leap to pounce her, but suddenly, out of nowhere a blue transparent dome protected her from the beast. The dragon attacked again and again but the energy shield was imperishable, always recovered each time the dragon tore it.

Amidst his fears about the beast before her she felt a bit relieved and happy, for now she looked at both of her friend behind the dragon. Scarlett stood and held in her hand was the strange knives of Marius while Rey kneeling beside her with stone blade plugged in the stone floor. The stone blade she had wonder on it, for she didn’t saw it before this on him, moreover he stabbed it to the ground for something he didn’t understand. But one Sphere which lit up on his arm he could guess that because it was the one which protected her now.

She was amazed, though wondered how he could done this, creating magic to protected her in such distance without scepter, even a Magi like her couldn’t done such thing. But it seemed he could no longer hold this magic, many times the dragon tried to break the curtain, it must be drained his power so much.

Suddenly a knife spinning in the air and pierced the dragon in the back, made the beast turn around in rage toward them.

“He saw us, is it good?” asked Rey

“Just calm down!” said Scarlett.

Scarlett throws two knives on the either side of her and at once she created electrical fence like Marius had, but smaller and more like glowing-blue string.

Suddenly the Fell Drake ran toward them. So fast and ferocious it was that it made his heart pounded to his body shuddered. He wants to run but great fear ensnared him till he couldn’t move a leg. On the other side Scarlett seemed calm as if she wants to welcome the beast.

The dragon leaped to them but at the same moment Scarlett vanished with Rey into blue haze and so the dragon strikes nothing but the glowing string, and like a lightning rod all the blue flash gathered into the knife and spread through the body as if a lightning stroke the dragon beast. The dragon roared and trembled in pain till at last it stumbled.

“What’s that?” asked Rey pointing to the dragon and shortly after he realized that there’s someone who weren’t there. “Hey, where’s Aska?”

“That was Aska!” said Eorin.

“But why did he attack us?”

“Over valia, normally when it happened you will only experience an uncontrollable burst of energy. However the Volk Tribes were different, they don’t use Sphere for magic but to shapeshifting, so when that happened their shape will control their bodies, in other word that one wasn’t our friend anymore but a wild beast.” said Scarlett.

The Fell Drake began to rise and roaring in rage. Seemed Aska have completely disappeared inside, swallowed up by the fury of mighty dragon beast.

“I‘ll take care of your friend. You two go outside, prevent the battle!”

“But Aska …?”

“Trust me! I won’t scar him. I will save your friend from that beast.” replied Scarlett firmly.

Scarlett has said something very impossible, for she knew any Volk Tribe who had been conquered by his own beast almost impossible to transform back. A great feeling or will of their human side would bring them back, but she heard none about that ever happened. She did it few moments ago and her voice couldn’t get through him instead the beast willingly to kill him. The only thing and most common way to bring them back was by suffered them with great pain, not few of them were killed in the process. Is Scarlett going to hurt her friend to dying that it might kill him? Seems not, her sword still sheathed tightly on her waist and her gesture look relaxed for someone who intends to draw her sword at the last moment. On the contrary Eorin saw a smile spreads on her face, a smile of confidence as if she could fulfill what she just said – to bring back her friend.

“What are you waiting for? Go, now!” cried Scarlett.

“Ok!”

Both of them go and Scarlett put herself forward to protect them. The yellow eyes of dragon beast stared at her fiercely with spiky brows lifted and the air seems heavy by its breath.

“What are you waiting ugly lizard? Come to me right now.” Scarlett challenged the beast.

The dragon beast ran and leaped to attack her. Scarlett getting down to evade and in the slightest chance she touched the limb of the dragon and at once brought that beast teleported into the height off to both of them falling down.

All of sudden a fear of death arose in him, the greatest fear among human, so great it was that his fear defeated the will and instinct of the Fell Drake. And in the fall the wingless dragon shouted, not with ferocious roar but the scream of a boy who were afraid of falling. The Fell Drake faded away like dust banished by winds and instantly turned into a boy who screamed hysterically. Nothing was between him and the ground under and the death just need to wait for second.

And behold! Above him, Scarlett dive down swiftly follows him. The red-haired woman soon grabbed him on the neck and brought him teleported into the castle. Both of them tumbled and crash something when they suddenly appeared inside the castle. Scarlett felt a pain in his back while Aska dazed as if he didn’t know what had just happened.

“What happened?” said Aska look confused, but a moment later he felt a pain on his shoulder. “Ouch, who’s put the knife on my shoulder?”

The habit and words of him, Scarlett doesn’t even need a second to recognized that it was him. The shape of the dragon beast was gone from him, yet fears still on her as the light in his Sphere still glowing though it slowly fainted.

“You know whose knife is?”

“Marius, that bastard, I’ll bite him once this is over.”

“Yeah, bite him. Chew him up if necessary.” said Scarlett innocently, while she was the one whom throw the knife at him.

***

Blitzberg pressed Marius’s chest with the tip of his sword and he look pleased by the pain shows on his face.

“I will miss you Marius, have good sleep.”

As he ready to lunge his triple-edged sword to take his life, suddenly he halted with frown. The pain grew about his back to chest and then he fell to his knees. He glanced down and his eyes caught a gleam of reddened steel. Who? How? Asked him in his thought as he saw the sword that pierced his chest, for he knew no one behind to stab him. And before he got the answer, Marius rose and stood before him.

“How you …?” said Blitzberg wondered.

“I used the cheap sword not because I’m stingy but only with the common steel I could do this.” said Marius. He revoked the knife in his waist without touched it as if the knife was moved by an invisible force.

“Thunderbird Sphere, how you mastered it? Even I couldn’t do such thing in perfect.”

“Neither do I, I just levitated it and retracted it to myself. Unfortunately you stood between us, so I’m sorry if my blade got you.”

Marius walked with a limp while held his waist. Then he took Succubus Sphere of Blitzberg hand. “Wait here! I call for help.” said Marius, while patting his shoulder.

However Blitzberg do not want to swallow such a bitter defeat. He rose and with all remaining power he had he trying to done the last magic, a little lightning ball levitates over his palm but strange purple haze radiate from it and every flash out of it tore the stone floor and pillar around him.

Marius halted hearing the clapping sounds of his magic. Prideful but near death he believed Blitzberg wouldn’t cast a common magic to attack him, it might be something deadly or worse, it could kill them both. Marius turned around and there, like a god of thunder, Blitzberg raised his hand to attack. But Marius sprang forward and quickly cast a magic to him, it was shapeless and colorless magic but very powerful, a great magic of Bhayu the Windlord of the South. And like all winds gathered to Blitzberg it swirls and sucked everything around including his magic. The tempest repelled him to hit the baluster and at the same moment great blast of lightning shook the ground and air with wild blue flashes tore up the dimness, and the rumble of thunder broke the silence and echoed in the entire castle.

The blast crumbled the wall and balcony, razed the floor beneath to the lower level and created a huge hole which shows the shadows of the marshes outside.

“Can’t you wait till help coming?” Marius mocked.

Chapter 25

Power of the Heart

Rey and Eorin running down on the walk-wall and soon they halted in their surprise as they found outside castle has completely changed. They have no longer seen the black marshes stretching away into the shadow of the woods but wet and dirty concrete field like road that had been swept by flood and just receding.

“What happened? Where the marshes?” said Rey confused. “I’m pretty sure there were marshes here. We had betting our life with huge serpent to cross it.”

“It’s Stoneyard, Royal Forces standard procedures. Stone elemental bombs dropped on shallow-water area. Caused marshes, wallow or another still-water covered by concrete plate to create an ideal field for battle and also getting away dangerous creature like huge serpent you talked about. The stone plate will perish into sand and sank after 3-4 days, so we shouldn’t worry to step on it now.” said Eorin. “We should more concern about them who set it.”

Eorin keenly stared into the shadow under the night. And there, far away against them two airships look flying low above the gloomy forest. Huge and fierce it was like black cloud floating in stillness with the sounds of mills and engine like a rumble of thunder in the distance. Slowly a faint glimmer of blue light kindled and spreads over the black plains like flying fireflies, and so they could see countless number of black figures marching swiftly upon the black plains and arrayed themselves into few squares. She couldn’t estimate the exact number of them in the distant darkness, but it seemed they could easily sweep all the enemies behind the old walls.

Suddenly the old gate below fell to the ground with a thud and broke. There was a pause as the dust rising, and faintly they heard sounds of trampling feet. Row upon row the black figure marching out of the gate, no yells or any words to boost morale came out of them, they marching in dread silence as if they’re walking phantom.

“We’re late, the battle about to start.”

“Not too late for me,” said Eorin “Come on, let’s go!”

“Wait! I had better way, and faster.” said Rey, as he looking at the old chain, it was stretched down, slanting and sunken into underground. It was the remaining of a drawbridge, seemingly. The pair on the left side of the gate was broken and hanging on the wall while the bridge itself seemed was long buried under the ground. The winds blowing cold and the chain shaking in shiver, so was Rey. He shuddered only by looking at the swaying old chain as though it could be broke by a touch. “For a second thought I don’t think it was better idea.”

“But faster.” said Eorin.

They prepared a piece of cloth. Then they jumped and slide down along the chain. Alas, before they ever step on the ground the chain was broken first. Rey who’s on the fore got swung and dragged on the ground while Eorin with a good reflex quickly cast ice magic to stick her handhold and then jumped down smoothly. Their sound alarmed the enemies and few of yellow eyes turned on them at once. No warning or cries came from the silent enemies they just shot them with a flash of yellow light sprang out of their hand. Quickly they evade and the shot passed between them to the wall cracked.

“Looks like we’re invited.” said Rey.

“Let’s not make them disappointed shall we.”

They both ran forward into the Black Phantoms. With the Sphere Coral Imp she borrowed from Rey Eorin cast a lightning magic into them. Skillful she was as the girl with magic; forks of blue flash sprang out of her hand wildly and with her scepter the lightning sprang like white flame from the ground, with one move he could take down 4-5 enemies. Meanwhile Rey guarding on her side, strike with his dull granite sword and fireball, though it doesn’t much helped.

The stream of Black Phantom drew to them now and they saw more the yellow eyes stared at them. More and more the Phantoms came to them in an endless row with deadly yellow light flashed everywhere around them.

“Captain, look!” said one of the soldiers.

The captain turned, wondered and surprised, as he saw the light streaking upon the black field. And though it was faint in the distant shadows but he could assume that there were two peoples countering all those black soldiers.

“Prepared yourself!” said the captain without turned his eyes from the battle across.

Both of them had reached their limit but vain it seemed their effort to stop them. How many times she stunned them to down those Phantoms seem never run out of number. Even those who had been down began to rise. The girl may great to shape her magic but it seemed her lightning was less powerful than the one Marius had, so was they rose quickly than expected.

Suddenly she stumbled by her own weariness. At once the closer enemy hit her with a fist and shot her. Eorin fell and her bracelet broke as it protected her from the shot till all her Spheres scattered on the ground.

“Eorin!” cried Rey. He ran and get into Eorin immediately. The girl he put on his arm and somehow unwittingly he created blue transparent dome to shield them both.

Then he looked at her. The girl injured and fainted, lied helplessly on his arm. The darkness fell once again upon that place, and the shadows of enemies drew closer and surrounded them. Fear and anger was rose in him when he looked at the Phantoms whom hurt that girl but at the same time he felt pity for them. He realized the enemies they faced now weren’t meant to do this, neither to attack nor hurt them, they just being used by someone for something that they don’t willing to do.

For a moment he just sat there and guarding Eorin. The world around him seemed voiceless, only shadows under the night beset them with their yellow eyes stared at them. He looked around and he laughed desperately, seeing the people they tried to save was trying to kill them. Now nothing he could do but wait them to break the blue curtain that protected them.

However, even with shadows beset them, and the hatred and desperation darkened his heart there’s one light still remain. He looked at it wonderingly. The Sphere lied on the dark ground like the last light of hope among the darkness. It was Coral Imp Sphere which Eorin used before to create lightning. Although the girl was fainted and the Sphere was let off her hand but it’s still glowing as if the girl’s will still strong inside it.

Rey took it. Though the glow slowly faded but as he touched it he could feels Eorin’s will to save them. At once the burdened heart became lighter, and the desperation conquered by hope and spirit arose in him. His will grow stronger along with Eorin’s will and so the fading glow in the Sphere shining back, glows brightly than before. Then a great power emerged on him suddenly, the stone blade he thrust firmly into the ground and at once a white flash sprang from the earth and burst like a wave of lightning to strike all the Phantoms there.

The darkness came again upon abandoned land after that. Rey looked around. The enemy stood still under the shadow of the night with all yellow eyes pointed on them. However the blue dome has no longer protected them, for no power left on him anymore. For a moment there was ominous silence, like a battle about to begin or death to wait. And suddenly, as they waiting for terrible fate, all the Phantoms around them fell altogether to the ground.

***

Eorin opened her eyes and wondered where she is, and soon with dreadful shock she wakened and siege but she found no peril to fight, instead she was surprised as he saw all the Phantoms were lied everywhere on the ground.

“Glad you’re all right.”

Eorin turned to the voice and there she found a young man bent down and hold on his broken sword.

“Rey!” cried Eorin as she get to him.

“Amazing trip, huh.” said him. He smiled at her but his eyes look exhausted, and shortly after he fell and fainted.

“Rey! Rey!” called Eorin as she shook him but none of her calls could through his consciousness.

Suddenly the cold air came whistling and in the gloom she saw a glint of sharp steel ran curved from her neck to a black figure under the moon.

“Speak your name?” said the figure with threatening voice. “Speak or …”

“Stop!” commanded a voice.

Then a man went forward from the crowd. He was tall and stern, and as a sign of command he wore rectangular spaulders on his armor. He didn’t unsheathe his sword but his eyes observed keenly behind the helmet. “Halt your sword soldier!” he commanded, and the soldier put his sword off from Eorin’s neck.

Then he walked over to Eorin while put off his helmet. He was short-haired and young, maybe as young as Scarlett but he looks well-respected among others. And when he get close enough, he bent down and speak face to face with the girl.

“I don’t know who you are but it’s clear for me that both of you are not one of them.” said that man looking all Phantoms lied around. “My name is Juntari, Captain of 3rd Legion of Khatar. Could you tell me what happened here?”

Eorin then explains about what happened, about the assault on the villages, about the Phantoms and who they really are. Almost all of them didn’t believe what Eorin told them until some of them removed few of those helmets. Some soldier recognizes those faces and confirmed that they were missing villagers.

As everyone stunned in surprise and confusion, without their notice, one of the fallen enemies began to move his fingers.

***

In the old throne Marius rested himself for a brief time. Pain and weariness were all over his body. He checked his wounds, looks bad but seem he could hold on for one battle as long as he doesn’t fought against the expert like those Brothers anymore.

The last brother has dead, swept by the blast of his own lightning. But one enemy still left and there’s something he have to do. He raised his hand and he saw the Sphere glinting in the faint light. Succubus, the queen of foul creature and the mastermind of all Necron sealed inside the crystal ball, powerless and motionless on her hand. But somehow an eerie feeling came upon him when he looked at the creature as if some malevolent filled his head with screams of pain and agony.

“That old man was right. I should be a singer or a movie star, lived in a penthouse and dating a model.” said Marius sighed.

Marius then took something out of his clothes. It was a dagger with strange shape. The blade was blunt and had some inscription on it, and at the tip of the hilt there’s a ring at the size of Sphere. The Succubus Sphere he attached on it.

To the middle of the hall Marius went. And as he walked he caught a glint near the big hole to the night outside; the triple-edged sword of Blitzberg trapped among the rubbles and sparkling under the moonlight. By his power the sword he summoned to his hand.

“Just finish this and get some drink.” said Marius as he took a deep breath.

With a strong thrust he stabbed the dagger into the floor and at once a light flashed out of the Sphere like a spark of gunpowder. Swiftly and tensely he back away and pointed his sword toward the dagger. A glint came into his eyes and though it look fainted but Marius saw that the Sphere was empty; nothing have sealed inside the crystal ball now.

Suddenly the ground beneath him trembled in erratic tremor, as if some giant knocking the floor from under. There and there, with a crack, few long tentacles piercing out of the floor. Then with a sudden breach, a shadow rise before him. Tall it was, about ten feet and slender. It moves gracefully like a woman but no legs appeared on it; like a tree, she stood rooting on the floor under with long tentacles grew from the back and swaying in the air. Her face was like pale mask and solid with eyes like jewel, red and shining. While her mouth always looks grinning but tattoos around the eyes depict sadness and sorrow. Gently her long fingers touched her own face as if she admired her own everlasting beauty.

Marius sprang up to attack her but suddenly, as the eyes of the monster glowing red, Marius felt great pain in his head as if something squeezed his brain from inside. The triple-edged sword off his hand and Marius floundering on the floor with both hands kept the head and voiceless scream came from his clenched teeth.

The red eyes dimmed. No mysterious force pressed his brain anymore but the pain still in his head. And have not the pain in his head gone, the tentacles seized and twisted on him. Then the queen brought him closer till reflected in her shining red eyes a man in agony.

***

As if the dead awakened, a Phantom rose with suddenness. And without a helmet everyone now could see his face. The face looks life and warm but no expression or emotion appeared on him, only creepy yellow eyes staring blankly at everyone around. Then without waiting a second he begins to shoot everyone there. Two men down and one get shot in the leg till someone hit him in the face to knock him down.

“What the hell? How he could get up?” said a soldier to Eorin.

“They’re just stunned down. Lightning was effective to take them down in instant but it just temporary.” said Eorin. “Order your men to use their lightning only. It could bring them down without having to hurt them.”

“If I could say this mission was to seek and destroy. All men here were common infantry, they’re only equipped with sword and their Spheres were standard, energy shot and shield. I don’t think none of us have a lightning now.” said the captain. “Dammit! If I knew this before I would brought Mage unit with me.”

Another Phantom arises and followed by another. Royal Forces unsheathed their sword in alarm but they stance and brandished in doubt.

“Captain! Order?!” asked a soldier.

Captain Juntari turned and looked out. For the first time he trapped in the moment of indecision, for the enemies they faced now weren’t someone they could fight against. Those Phantoms would doubtlessly kill his men but on the other side they were peoples they have swore to protect. His mind twisted, either protect those peoples or protect his men.

“Don’t hurt them! Please!” Eorin begged to the captain.

“I wouldn’t.” said the captain, keen his eyes on the Black Soldier. Then he rose to commands. “Sheath your sword! Use a shot, aimed at their vest and do whatever to knock them down! They’re our peoples and you’re Ishtar finest, keep them and yourself alive!”

All men yelled vigorously. The light sprang out of their hand and the battle-cries of men break out. One by one the Phantoms arose to their full force and the rest of royal forces go forth into the foothill. Upon the gloomy field the battle has begins and the silence of the night broke by the sounds of rumble. All fight in the crowd. Royal forces halt their sword in the sheath and they rarely shot with their magic. They fought only with a bare hand and boot to take the opponents down, even as the Phantom undoubtedly shot their magic to kill.

There was a sudden bolt of lightning, dazzling and roaring, many of Phantoms fell in one stroke. Every soldier turned and there they saw the captain stood with a sparks of blue flash covering his hand.

“Thank you for lend me your magic.” said the captain.

“I think it’s better on your hand than mine.”

“Just watch your friend. Leave them to us.” said the captain.

The captain ran forward. Not only he casts a lightning to take them in a row but also have his fist gloved with sparking blue flash, one hit of the hand and the Phantom stunned to fall. On the other side Eorin protecting Rey who still lied unconscious. Few of Phantoms came to attack them and the girl fought them with her ice. Humid was the air and land in the West Rim, and the scepter on her hand possess a great power of cold. And so she became the master of ice. Every Phantom she sealed them in cold and turned them into ice statue.

Unnoticed by her, an enemy walked towards them. Shadows covered him and leave only yellow eyes gazed them behind the darkness. He stretched a hand and as energy sprang out towards her suddenly a huge shape jumped down behind her to take the shot. Eorin turned and to her surprise she found a huge wolf stands behind her with eyes glowing in the darkness.

“Seem you need a help.” said Aska with heavy voice.

For a moment the girl stunned, either in happiness or affection when she saw the huge beast before him. Wonder what Scarlett had done, but she relieved that her friend was back. Although all those feelings overwhelmed by her own pride later.

“You’re late. Now get off my sight.” said Eorin as she freeze a Phantom.

“Hey, what’s happened to Rey?” asked Aska approached him with pity, and in that form he looks like a dog trying to help his helpless master.

A blast on the ground interrupted them. Then few of Phantoms came from their right. The frost she gathered to a big snowflake upon her hand and she throws to them. One ice she thrown, one spell she spoke in whisper. Then suddenly a blast of cold ice sprang from the ground and freezes everything, all of those Phantoms frozen and concealed inside the crystal cold.

“How you did that?”

“Is that important for you?”

“Of course, why you didn’t do it when that dragon after us?”

“This is night and the place was cold and wet, very haven for my ice magic.” said Eorin. “Rather than complain on me why you didn’t help them?”

“Affirmative.” said Aska turned around.

“Hey!” called Eorin.

“I know. Don’t kill or be killed.” said Aska “Take it easy, I just want to knock their head with mine.”

The horned-wolf looked into the battlefield. Keenly the eyes of the beast gazed at them and then he howls into the moons as if ask a permission for the battle. The huge wolf ran and wildly rushed all the Phantoms on his way.

“Get away the beast coming.” said Aska eagerly like unstoppable rage that get rid everything on his way.

“Captain!” shouted a soldier with his eyes pointing at Aska.

“He’s Volk. Looking what he done I think he’s on our side.” said the Captain with joy.

Suddenly the captain glared at the darkness behind the girl. Then he ran with blue sparks on his hand and strikes a Phantom behind her to fall.

“Watch your back girl.”

“Thank you.”

Upon the field the royal forces began to be overwhelmed. They were wounded and fatigue, not few of them had down. Save for the lightning bore by captain, seemed none of their attack could effective against them.

“Have any other idea lady? If things keep going like this I’ll going authorize whatever it need to keep my men alive.”

Eorin had no word to answer. Then she looked up to the castle, “Whatever you do please be quick.”

***

With her long purplish tentacle the monster took triple-edged sword and the long fingers of the queen grabbed it. Marius tried to fight back with his lightning but it seemed the queen has locked his mind by pain. The tip of the sword glinting in the dimness and the grin in her mask-face seems get wider as if she was mocking Marius for his failure.

“You think lowlifes such a you can kill me?” said Succubus with eerie voice piercing the ears and echoed in the hall.

“I can.”

Scarlett appeared before her in suddenness. On the red jewel-eyes her face reflected, smiled in confidence and power. His left hand grabbed the queen’s neck, holds on it and attached on his right arm was a steel claw, triple-bladed and long. Swiftly and strongly he thrust the steel claws right into the heart of the queen. At once the queen cried out in pain with shrilling voice. Marius was let off and fell, then he get away immediately as the tentacles swaying wild, so was Scarlett.

A loud scream grew in the hall and piercing to their ears, and the tentacles whipped everywhere and tore everything. For a moment the queen was like shrunken, and then with eerie long scream the queen falling down like uprooted tree.

“Is she dead?” asked Scarlett while reshape the claw into the Sword of Enigma.

The queen has fall, her body didn’t move at all. The purple blood flooded the floor and the red glow on her eyes dimmed, though her tentacles still swaying weakly.

“I thought so.” said Marius.

“How could you lose against frail monster like this?” asked Scarlett. “Man, had all the muscles but don’t know how to use it.” she taunted him.

“I fought three elites of Azgalor all the day. Besides it’s a she and I hurt no woman even though she was … something else.”

“Whatever! Let’s go and see if they’re all right!”

“You go first I’ll catch later.” said Marius leaned himself on the pillar. He looks exhausted and in pain.

“Are you really okay?”

“I’m okay. Just catch those kids outside.” said Marius as he leaned himself on a pillar. Then he looked at the mask-face, the grin still on her face as if to say that this is just the beginning.

***

The Phantoms surged forward, there and there the shadows of the night torn as their shot flashing everywhere. Some of royal forces step back, other still fought under fire. Even as the captain took down many of them with his lightning but still the opponent came like endless wave. The sparks of blue on his hand began to fade now, instead his hand hold the sheathed sword with holding rage.

On the other side the great wolf has stumbled, one shot might not hurt the beast at that size but he have wounded by many of them. And so the horned-wolf turned into a young boy lied powerless upon the dark barren. A step he heard and beside him had stood a Phantom with head stooped and yellow eyes stared at him blankly. Soon a hand stretched to him with a glow on his palm ready to shot.

“Well this is the end.” said Aska as he closing his eyes.

A moment he waited the death to come. But after few seconds he closed his eyes nothing have happened. Aska glance one eye and he saw the Phantom stood frozen in the same position of his last sight, only the glow on his palm has faded. Aska then looked around. Not only the one near him but every Phantom there had frozen like statue. And suddenly, to his surprise all of them fell altogether.

Everyone wondered and amazed, and a bit of both joy and worries, few of them stance with tense – just in case if they’ll rise once again like before. For a moment they waiting in tense and wonder, and their curiosity answered immediately as one of the Phantoms arose. On The Captain’s hand a blue flash sparked ready to attack, but Eorin halt him first.

“Wait! Look!” said Eorin, pointed at the rising opponent.

That Phantom walked and moved weirdly like was sleep walking, and he turned to and fro like someone confused with helmet still attached. Then suddenly he fell to him sat on the dark ground. He touched and feels his head and how surprised he was when he knew something had attached on his head. He tried to get off the helmet but he couldn’t.

“Here let me help you.” said Eorin, beside her stood Captain Juntari with wild blue flash still on his hand.

Eorin opened the lock and get off the helmet from him. A young man he was, maybe as old as her or Aska, but his face looks confused like someone who just woke up from bad dreams. But over all there’s something that drew her attention, deeply she looks through it. His pupils were brown and normal, although lost their focus now.

“Where am I?” asked him.

“Outside the castle.” answered Eorin.

The young man then turned to see the castle. “How I get here?”

“I wish I could explain.” answered Eorin.

The captain unsheathed his sword and with that he shouted in joy as he raises it. Then a yell of victory spreads out among them. All men dancing and shouted in joy, and like fireworks to celebrate this glorious moment they fire their magic high into the air and light up the night.

Among their victory only the man in the black vest that still look confused, both to them and himself.

***

The night was calm and peaceful under stars and both moons. The forest still rest in the deep silence. But there, some creatures still wakened at the night and leaped from one tree to another. Then they halted upon the forest-roof, moons and stars had charmed them and in amazement they looked up into the sky with gleamed eyes.

All of sudden they sense a horror came closer like there was an evil tidings brought by cold winds. They turned and hiding, peeking behind the leaves with fear. For a while the sky was empty. Then they saw it, a huge shadow flying at the great height, so mysterious like a winged serpent crossing under the moon. Dragon it was, of the class Amphitere, named for the dragons which had feature of winged serpent in this world. But this kind, whose origin, weren’t from this land. From the outer continent it was, of the isolated and untouched Black Continent in far northwest, lived in the realm of solitude where in the air contains a deathful whisper. Till some mysterious force with great power enslaved it to be his steed. And there he was, sat upon it as its master. Black robe he wore and the night gave him a shadow to mask his face.

The rider looked upon the land, all were grey and still. The night still dark, even at the great height he didn’t see a pale light in the east horizon. Mile by mile, land upon land, all forests, rivers and mountain he had passed at great speed. Then presently he saw a grey smoke, rose in curling threads and spreads behind the stretching mountains. Soon, as the mountains had been passed, he saw a vast and black valley, with lurid fissure everywhere till looks like red labyrinth from the height. Buildings and structures built of steel formed industrial area on the entire barrens. Steam and smoke arose from the lurid fissure, and dust and ashes falling from the sky like black snow. The valley was fort by mountains and at the south a huge cleft divided the rock and formed a natural arch. And railroads was built extends to the edge of the west.

Later they stopped at the biggest building in the center. There, in the deck, four guards have waited. They wore a heavy armor, black-colored with red stripes on arms and legs. And a big guy stood amidst of them, a pale-skinned man with short grey hair.

“I’ve always asked when you come here.” said the man.

“Man in my position couldn’t move freely Cyrus, especially if they know I stepped in the enemy’s lair.”

“Nagard wasn’t lair. It was hell’s end.” said Cyrus. “How it was? I heard you had a little trouble there.”

“Nothing to concern about, but your men have expended on this. All of them I think, if Blitzberg don’t make it,” answered the mysterious man.

“They’re my best. Too bad if we lose someone at their level.”

“Let’s not grief for the peon, we still have many of them.” replied the mysterious man. “How about that fat bastard, did he willing to give one of his collections?”

“That pig faces did not want to give it even as we raised our bidding. He wants to barter it.”

“What’s he wanted as an exchange?”

“The Jewel of Ishtar.” answered Cyrus

“So he demands something impossible.”

“You know I could send some of my men in Arabana to steal it. It would be easy for them.”

“Stealing from that fool bastard is not difficult even easier than if we take the Jewel of Ishtar. But I have particular reason why I want to have good trade with him.” said him. “Just tell that pig faces that we will give him what he wanted.”

“It will be done.”

***

Rey half-opened his eyes. At first he only saw a bright blue light but then faintly and blurrily he saw Aska’s face smiling to him.

“Hi!”

“Hi.”

“What happened?”

Aska stared at him softly and his face was calm. He never saw it on him before as if his soul now filled with serenity and peace. Then with a smile he answered. “We’re dead Rey and now we’re in heaven.” said Aska with smile.

“VVhaaat?!” Rey was shocked when hear it.

“Nah just joking, you should look at your face.” said Aska laughing.

“How can you make joke at a time like this?” said Eorin.

“The danger have passed, we deserve a good joke right now.” replied Aska.

“Are you alright?” asked Eorin.

“I’m fine, just bit dizzy.”

Slowly he gained his consciousness. Although not completely recovered yet but he could see everything around. The sky still dark above him but in the east the grey dawn crawling up behind the forests and hills. Dozens of blue flare spread above them glimmered upon the black lot. And as he looked toward the rumbling sounds in the distant, he saw an airship floating in the air and anchored with long chain to the earth.

Then he looked around, the black field now crowded both by men in armor as Marius wore and soldiers in black vest. At first he saw them with fear and worry, but then he realizes that no battle was around them, not even cries of battle nor light flashed to shot them, instead peoples look help each other and some medic take care of them. Now he see those in the black vest wore helmet no more and no creepy yellow eyes were seen on them, they’re just like a common people wearing odd gear. He wondered, and rejoiced, for everything look ends well.

“Did we make it? Did they survive?”

“We made it, they’re survived.” answered Scarlett from behind. “Good job kid, all of you.”

“Better you check your wound.” said Captain, he paused for a moment looked at them then he speaks again, “But after that I must ask you to leave.”

“Hey, we’re helped you here. Without us this night would turn into nightmare.” said Aska. “We deserve a medal, a gold one.”

“I wasn’t mean to rude but your presence here was illegal except princess herself confirmed about your quest here. But her highness too young to have such decision and confirmed about you will only give her a trouble.”

“I understand.” said Scarlett.

“But…”

“He’s right, we’re lucky enough not be listed as enemies. Let them take care of the rest.” said Eorin.

“A friend of mine still inside, would you look for him? He’s in the main hall and wounded.”

“Main hall, you mean the one with a big hole? I’m sorry ma’am we had swept that place but we found no one but broken blade and purple slime.” said Juntari.

“You mean no one there? Not even dead monster?”

“Dead monster?” said captain confused.

Scarlett laughing and murmuring, “You got me again Marius.”

“What happened?”

“Nah just forget it. Let’s get some places and clean ourselves.”

“I don’t see a better place to go now.” said Aska with huft.

“How about five stars hotel in Khatar?” said Scarlett, showing a grasp of gold in her hand.

“Where did you get that?” asked Aska look excited.

Scarlett gave no answer. She just walked away and followed by other behind. Along the way Aska tailed her and keep asking about the gold.

“Is it in the castle?”

Chapter 26

The Covenant

Five days has passed since that. The tidings of the west never reach the capital as the military and local authorities have covered it up, just a bad rumor about some group of brigands that trying to grow a fear and spread a chaos in the west border. So was the menace of the silver-haired has vanished itself. The city had been guarded tightly, not even a smuggler did dare to enter the city, yet there’s no sign of Artharis. The last and uncertain information was come from Aska in the day when Covach came to the Grove.

Today Lucretia city more crowded. In the street many caravans are coming and out and the railway is much busier than usual. At the blue sky of Lucretia eight airships floating above the city, five ships looks conventional brought the passengers who want to visit the city and attend the festival while other two were slightly bigger, it was merchant airship, full of great goods which could make them reap huge profit at this moment. And the last one looks more majestic and luxurious than the others, the royal airship of friendly country it might be and it flew to the royal palace escorted by two Wyvern flying beside it.

At the top of the Lodge Scarlett stood looking at the city crowd with a telescope. Her appearance now looks more feminine with her red hair loose long and casual outfit. She was never expected to return to the hustle bustle of this city. Her last journey like a dream, weapons and magic of humans she had experienced in the past but never thought on her life that he would be buried alive inside the legendary monster and fought the giant like Gargantua.

“With all that happened to you I thought you will be retired for stalking and gossip.” said a man who walked up behind, he’s got an oval face with short hair and brown eyes. Tall stature and slim but looks gallant in scales-patterned red armor.

“No, I just want to see city rush.” said Scarlett. “Besides, take more than just Gargantua to stop me to peek off the senate who likes to do strange things.”

“It seems the festival will be more crowded than last year.”

“I don’t know Dusan. I just feel this year will not be the same as usual like there’s something bad going on.”

“Maybe it just your feeling.” said Dusan.

“It might be.” said Scarlett smiled slightly, but Dusan could see there’s a bit worries left in her eyes.

“By the way why you tell me to come with my dragon? I never thought that you’re interested in flying up.”

“I want to borrow your ride, with the rider of course.”

“I don’t mind to give you a flight. It just weird, you always do some acrobatic show to explore the city.”

“On the last journey I had falling into deep ravine with tons of carriage that would juice me as I got on the ground.”

“Is it true?!”

“That’s why I came to Professor Chevron, and he gave me a tool that might suitable for me.”

“Considering you want to lend my dragon, I could predict that tool would help you to dive in the air. Am I right?”

“Professor called it Leaf Wings, broad-leaved plants that can be used as a parachute. Very practice, just use Dryad Sphere and it will grow instantly.” said Scarlett “That’s why I want you to take me under the cloud.”

“Ok then, the cost for this flight is a cup of Jabberwock coffee with your story as additional taxes.”

“Deal.” replied Scarlett.

“But first give me a ride because she’s waiting on the top.”

Scarlett touched him and at once brought him to teleport on the top of building. There Scarlett appeared with a bit feeling of surprised, for stood before her now a magnificent beast with wings tighten looking at the blue where the freedom stretched for it. The dragon was slightly smaller than Red Wyvern, long neck and gray skin but brighter at the bottom of the neck to the belly. Seemed it wasn’t the dragon for battle; the claws weren’t too sharp and the feature doesn’t look ferocious. It was almost like winged lizard than dragon as common.

“The Grey Scrapper?” said Scarlett.

“She’s beautiful isn’t it?” said Dusan as he walked to his dragon, but Scarlett stood still. “Why? Say something.”

“No, it just I thought you will bring a Wyvern here?”

“Are we going to battle?” said Dusan “For you to know she’s my first ride on the sky.”

“Really?” replied Scarlett.

“Yeah, since I was in the farm.” said Dusan. Then he leaped to its back. “Do you want to fly or just looking there?”

Scarlett jumped to join in the rear and with one word from Dusan the dragon leaped and stretched its wings to fly above the city. The dragon flew so calm and gentle like it was not flying but swim in the sky, and with one jolt it soared into the blue sky.

“Is this en-nough?” Unnoticed by Dusan, Scarlett has jumped down below.

To the earth she swoop down with hands and legs stretched. Then like flower blooms in suddenness a wide thick leaf spread between her wrists and legs, and with that she swerved forward like sparrow – calm but fast enough to beat the wind.

“She did it! That gossip girl made it!” cried Dusan look excited. “I should try that sometimes.”

At her height the city of Lucretia looks like blurred terrain, and slowly as she get down everything seemed rising and get bigger with innumerable tiny little spots spreads and moving in the city. Soon everything looked clear for her, every place and building, every road and rail. Swiftly she head down to the green square at the top of building.

Down there, on the roof garden of Ishtar Grove, everything seemed calm and peaceful. Headmaster watering the plants calmly with small hum came out of his smile. But then all those peace and calmness was broken when someone suddenly glided down from above, fell and rolling to shave off the green patches before him.

“Could you get in a normal way?” asked headmaster to his niece.

“Well, this is how I am.” said Scarlett.

***

The sun rode slowly down the sky. The golden light of the noon glittering on the giant windows of Ishtar Shell and the whole corridor became bright. It was so quiet there, only Marius was seen in that corridor. He wore formal clothes but looked bit messy with his right arm plastered. At his right the giant glass curtain shows the entire panorama of Lucretia. Amongst all, Ishtar Grove was caught his eyes most, remind him of younglings who accompanied him in the last mission. And then he found himself in front of a door. Two guards, big and tall, halted him directly.

“You must be joking, come on guys! You know who I am, so forget the formalities and let me pass.”

“Try it!” said the guard challenged him.

Marius sharply glanced at them and swiftly he slipped a hand into the coat as if want to draw a weapon to fight them.

“The best from the west, I’ve brought this from Khatar, special for you both.” said Marius, as he showed two cigars which flanked between his fingers. “Now don’t tell me that I didn’t remember you both.” said Marius.

Both of them took the cigars and smiling, and then they opened the door gladly as if Marius was special guest. Marius entered the room and there Sahagin sat and seemed waiting for him. And as always his eyes were cold and sharp.

“How was your trip? I heard you found something interesting there?” asked him with heavy voice.

“Don’t you want to ask about me first? Am I all right? Or have I wounded?”

“You’re alive and standing before me, it’s only wasted my time to ask you that.” replied him coldly.

“That’s fair, a simple and uncomplicated bureaucracy.”

“I heard you brought something for me.”

“Of course, but first explain about this.” said Marius, as he tossing a bronze coin to Sahagin. “I knew you had one of these. This one I got from Flamberg and I think two others keep the same coin. Will you tell me sir?!”

Sahagin paused. For a moment he just looked at the coin while flipping it and suddenly he pounds the table to put it on. Marius bit startled but he trying to keep calm in front of him. The black guy then took something out of the drawer and put it beside the coin Marius brought.

Then Marius looked at it with wonder. It has same size and same engraving but instead of bronze, the coin which Sahagin had was made of Gold. Marius picked it up immediately and looked at it carefully.

“You right I had one of these. But like you, I took it from someone.” said Sahagin.

“What is it actually?”

“I don’t know but the symbol you look now was the seal of the Dark Lord.”

“What? How I don’t know about it?”

“That’s because the Dark Lord himself rarely show it nor wore it, him and his minion, but the …” Sahagin paused as if what he will says is something he hated most from himself “but the Aesir like me or Alden know that this symbol several times carved by the Dark Lord himself.”

“Do you think they’re remaining of Lord Azriel?”

“Dark Lord has a lot of followers, people who want to live longer than the fate, the wicked who try to satisfy their lust for evil, greedy people who were trying to dredge its own benefit, the group trying to survive in the world he will made and the king who wants to be leader of the slaves. Dark Lord might fall but not with his followers, they are still a lot and wandering around the world, even most of them had quite prosperous life.”

“Who are they?”

“They called themselves ‘The Covenant’ at least that was had threatened to me as I put my blade to one of them. But the most interesting point wasn’t their name but their purpose, … to bring back their master.”

“That’s ridiculous.”

“For you but not for them and I never think people like them would put joke on this.” said Sahagin. “Their members spread worldwide, Ishtar, Azgalor, from the Peninsula of Arabana into the deepest of Azzure Point. Currently they only had a few members, less than hundred it might be but most of them are elite politician and wealthy class. They always move behind the shadow so we could not trace them. For years, me, Alden, Valerius and the former Aesir who still could be trusted trying to seek information about them whom within our country, but still, we could only grabbed a little piece about them.”

“If I may know whose coin this is?”

“You knew him because you take part in his captivity.”

“Dantorrran?”

“Yes, Godfrey’s brother. Almost all information about The Covenant I extracted from him, even then only few which really useful.” answered Sahagin. “It seemed they have to maintain simple structure and small number to keep their secrecy and this coin not only shows their membership but also their position, as we found there were different types. I assumed that Dantorran who hold the gold one sat at the top while Bitzberg and his brothers lied on the intermediate level or lesser, but still trusted enough to carry out important task.”

“If Dantorran involved and have Four Brothers as the fanboys I could not imagine how powerful they are.” said Marius.

“Yes you were, for you had seen what they have done recently.”

“Did Godfrey belongs to them or it did otherwise around?”

“Until now I still do not know whether he is one of them or not. But I knew him well, he has become the new king in this world and he is not going to messed it by trying to resurrect the Dark Lord. Even if he joined I believed it was just only to seek more profit and power.” said Sahagin. “Why did you ask that?”

“Because this is what I want to show you.”

Marius put something on the table. It was purple Sphere he got from Blitzberg with the dead queen sealed inside. Though Sahagin wondered about the Sphere which he seen for the first time but he more concerned about the shape inside. It seems like an old horror came upon him after many years, for he was among those who fought and killed it.

“A new kind of Sphere?” asked Sahagin.

“Yes, and more advanced than any kind of Sphere I’ve ever know. The queen inside was already dead, yet I could sealed it in this Sphere and used its ability. Though not as good as when she sealed alive but I could give someone little pain in the head.” said Marius “I thought the only evil geniuses who can created such thing was Godfrey.”

Sahagin took it and use it till it glows in his hand. “Hmm, this is very interesting. The Sphere, like it had its own energy in massive amount. No wonder if you could seal dead terrestrial inside and used its ability.” said Sahagin “However to think this one created by Godfrey, I doubt about it, neither anyone in his company. He was genius indeed, maybe most among the Aesir, but this is beyond his knowledge and ability. Even to imitate it I believe he could not.”

“Then who’s?”

“I don’t know. Certainly the one who created it and the women inside wasn’t ordinary person.”

“Then give me your order and I will investigate them.”

“Many sentinel killed just for a few minutes of our conversation, just as those who assigned to investigate the incident on the west. What makes you think you will have better fate?”

“I survived.”

“And that’s almost. You’re lucky because that red-haired woman back you up, not to mention those kids.” interrupted Sahagin.

“Then allow me to take a day off. This mission was hard, so I need a little vacation right now, maybe do a little fun like treasure hunting, some antique coins maybe.” said Marius.

Sahagin sighed. “Fine, I’ll give you ticket to Khatar. Remember, your primary mission is keep alive, a little information from you is much more useful than your death.”

“Marius Centrinus ready to serve the Kingdom of Ishtar.” said Marius firmly.

Chapter 27

Unspoken Farewell

Eps sat and looked in amazement at the broken sword which lied on the table. His eyes seemed brighter than a glitter on the black blade and bedazzled he was into serious person rather than short-tempered like always.

“What happened to your face? It’s like you had been drinking a dozen glasses of badger milk.” said Aska “Don’t take it too serious, we just want you to smooth the tip and attach a ‘safe crystal’ on this sword.”

“How did you get this?” asked Eps.

“It is a long story, but if I could make it short I found it in the ruins called Acronesia.”

“That legendary city? So it was true exist then.” said Aska, he continued immediately “Wait a minute, the city you’ve talking about was lost, it was devoured by the Great Worm. How did you find it?”

“That is the part where my story took long.”

“I don’t interesting about how you can get inside it, for I knew no one would ever plan to do it. But how you could get out was got me interested. So far as old tales tells, none, both living and ruin was ever get out of it except the Dark Lord which I believed whatever he did none of you had capabilities to do it. So it draws me to conclusion that this sword play important role in your break out. I’m I right?”

“Yes.”

“Then tell me your story about the sword, start it from where and how you got it and end it after you step on the surface, but give all detailed even if there’s detached lace from it.”

Rey thought for a moment, revisited the moments and ruins in his memories. He then gave his story to Eps. Seriously Eps give full attention for him, not even heard by him the sound of crafting metal but like the sound of falling coins. And like he was expected the boy before him has no gift in words and timelines, even so Eps got what he need, not the exact detail but at least he got the straight line. Little part are beyond his crafting skills and knowledge, some he recognized in his past about the silver-haired man he knew in the past with his blue flame while most could only have assumed by skillful bladesmith on his level.

“Hmmm that was quite interesting.”

“What is interesting?”

“I couldn’t say something that beyond my knowledge, for bladesmithing was something sacred for our kin so we couldn’t talk baseless things about sword or any kind of weapons.” said Eps “The shape of this sword was no longer exist and the craft was long lost, for the shape was particularly belong to the people of Juppon, a nation who were inhabited near Namtar but destroyed by queen Astarte over fifteen centuries ago. However its ability to reshape into another shape was similar to the Eternity in some ways.”

“Eternity?” asked Rey curious.

“Legendary sword of Artharis, blue flame like mysterious magic of netherworld but it could reshape into blue crystal sword, un-destructible and had great destructive power. But the Eternity was shapeless and even though it was like a living magic in the hand of Artharis it could only reshape into one form only, a blue crystal sword. However yours sword if I wasn’t wrong it could reshape into few different shape with different abilities and you already recognized one, a stone blade with abilities to conduct your magic on the ground.”

“It seems amazing.” said Aska.

“Not amazing but wonderful. The sword that could reshape and at the same time had unique abilities – none of bladesmith in Spheria could forge that, not even our adept and highbrow had knowledge about it.” said Eps.

Eps tried to touch the sword but Rey immediately shouted to stop him. “Don’t touch it!”

“Why?”

“An old man said that the sword was ‘protected’, everyone but me would repel if they try to touch it.”

“Really?!” said Eps Chuckled.

Without expected Eps hold the sword and at once he trembled greatly like he was stroke by electricity. Both of them surprised, yelled out with fears when looking at him. But as they got panicked, suddenly Eps roared with laughter.

“You should see your face, especially you.” said Eps laughing while pointed at Rey.

“Eps !!!”

“Sorry, I just can’t hold it.” Said Eps, his laughter get lesser “I guess the one who said to you was tweedy nerd in literal not the one who gave his hand for crafting metal. This sword may have ‘protected’ as you said, but broken sword would lose their magical abilities or at least it doesn’t work for temporary, including its protection. By this form, the sword could be hold by anyone even little kids.”

“But I see it for myself, someone repelled as he touched it.” said Rey.

“I told you in this form it could be touched by anyone. As far I concern about your story, the sword which repelled someone was the stone blade, another form of this sword but unbroken. Not only perfectly formed but all its magical abilities had worked well, it perfectly transcend all magical abilities through ground. And if the magical abilities had worked well then the protection on the sword too, that’s why that old man was repelled away.” said Eps “The real question is not about the protection but how you who live now could be the right owner of the sword which lost thousand years ago.”

“I don’t know and someone had asked the same question.”

Moment later Eorin came and called them both. “There you are. I’ve been looking for you both.”

“What’s up?”

“Headmaster summons us to his room.”

“Hi Eorin!” greeted the assistant.

Eps glanced sharply to his assistant and without further ado he throws a sharpening stone on him. He missed and he deliberately doing so.

“Get your work right! If you can make a good weapon then the girl comes.” said Eps.

“Wow, that’s incredible philosophy from someone who only got a date with an anvil.”

“Pfffttt …” His assistant was laughed when heard it.

With feeling of shame Eps throws an unfinished hilt to his assistant and once again he missed.

“Ah I forgot I have to show a good weapon for you.” said Eps as he walked into sword rack.

Eorin seems aware of what would Eps do so she say goodbye first, “Eps, may excused first.”

“Of course, please go on.” said Eps with fake smile.

The big guy humming while took a big dull sword on the wall. Though need more time than Eorin but Aska finally realized what Eps going to do.

“Quick took your sword!” cried Aska.

“What?”

“Just took your sword and get out of here!” cried Aska.

They’re running scared out of the workshop. Rey glanced behind and his eyes widened in dread as he saw Eps raises a big sword as if want to throw it. They ran faster and jumped startled as they heard a loud thud from inside like big steel thrown hard. Everyone there were surprised and they ran to peek inside the workshop to find out what was going on. And there, they found Eps stood and laughing with satisfaction like someone who had his prank succeeded and beside him the big sword lied on the ground. But then, when he saw those faces filled the door he turned to them with angry glare.

“What are you looking at? Are you want to taste legendary mace of 500 yr old?” said him loudly, and so all of them ran away to everywhere like herd running scared by the roar of the beast.

“And you, return this big lady to the rack or I cut your salary this month!” shouted Eps to his assistant.

“But you don’t pay me. I’m just internship here.”

“And they don’t put you here to argue with me. Now put that sword back or I pay you with F.” Eps stated “And tomorrow collect all the literature about the old weapons, especially those associated with Namtar and Juppon.”

His thick beard spread on the either side as if there’s smile hiding behind. It seems he have found new passion as the bladesmith.

***

“That’s all old man.” said Scarlett, “I heard from that Juntari guy that military and local authorities will do the best to restore their home. And for those villagers, I don’t know. I thought it would take a time for them to recover from this incident but I think they will be okay.”

“I’m glad this is ended well.”

They paused for a moment and then Scarlett continued to ask.

“Can I ask you something?” asked Scarlett.

“Of course, what you have on your mind?”

“Just trivial question about Wildkins and his theory.” said Scarlett

“About the birth of the Dark Lord?” asked headmaster.

“Yes, do you believe it? Do you believe his theory that the great worm gave birth to Lord Azriel?”

“I do not know.” answered headmaster.

“’I do not know?’, I thought I would never hear that words from Headmaster of the Grove.”

“As my personal opinion, Wildkins theories were absurd, less in paradigm and unreasonable in many ways. He stated that Azriel was born from the great worm, exactly he was stated that the Dark Lord was the division of the great worm, he also added in his theories that Azriel was the most evil and dangerous part of the worm until he threw it in human form.” said headmaster.

“But do you accept it? Do you believe in his theory?”

“Till now that theories was most accepted and widespread. Anyone knew how great the power of Archeon had, divide and took a shape like Lord Azriel wasn’t something impossible, especially both Archeon and Azriel made a big scar in our history.”

“What if Wildkins theory was wrong? What if Lord Azriel wasn’t born by it, not even just little part of the Great Ancient.” said Scarlett.

“What do you mean?”

“When we trapped inside, before we killed it the big worm told us that Lord Azriel had never been born by it or ever being a part of itself, it even cursed and despised him like they was an enemy from the oldest era. And what’s more strange it was stated that Lord Azriel suddenly appeared inside its body, like we did when teleported.”

“How it could be possible?”

“I don’t know either, and I don’t think his sudden appearance wasn’t abilities like our teleportation but something other. Or maybe that worm just lying.”

“I think there’s no point for Great Ancient to tell lies to human.” said headmaster. “Just never mind about it, the important thing is you’re all right.”

“I wouldn’t be succeeded without brought those ruffians. Though I bit wondered about him.”

“Rey?”

“Yes. Among those threes he was such amateur, no doubt about it. But he has done something great, though I believed it was just coincidence.”

“Yes I have heard about that part from Mrs. Gardnierre, stun all enemies with lightning stroke that came from low-level Sphere.”

“Even Marius couldn’t do something like that.”

“Spheres give us knowledge, through the Sphere we could use the terrestrial abilities but the real power of the Sphere depends on ourselves, his will to protect all he loved raised his true strength.”

“May I ask something about the boy? When I got journey with him I found something odd about him and in some way … mysterious, like he had lost all his memories. No, it was something different. I don’t know how to explain it.”

“Well It’s really hard to explain and maybe unbelievable for you or other common peoples to hear.”

“What do you mean?”

“Actually he was … “

Headmaster told everything to her, about Rey and where he came from. Scarlett was very surprised and she seems doesn’t believe about what have been told by her uncle. But she believes her uncle won’t tell a lie nor he was not someone lack of intelligence to bought by such silly fabricated story like that. Yet there are many things that still become mysteries in her mind about the boy.

***

Along the way Eorin and Aska talking about the activities they will do during holidays. Aska planned to return to his hometown in Vindhavar while Eorin tried to force him to stay on and join committee for some event which be held in Grove a few weeks later along with Flo. The girl even threatened him to burn his photos collection if he won’t join, whatever it means. And Rey who was between them forced to choose either he followed Aska and roaming in the woods or he stay in to join committee and helped them decorate the event.

Rey got undecided, he don’t know what to answer or whom to choose. And without they realized they had already in the white corridor where Scarlett and headmaster looking at them behind the opened door.

“Nice day seems you have. Come in!” said Scarlett.

Three of them entered the room. There headmaster and Scarlett stood looking at them, proud and happiness sure looked on their smile.

“We’ve been waiting for you.”

“If I may know why we were called here?” asked Eorin. “Don’t tell me you have another trip and you ask us to join.”

“Well, tell them.” said headmaster.

“First of all I want …”

“I know what you want to tell. No need to thank you, it is our duties as the good citizen of Ishtar to help this country from any danger.” interrupted Aska. “Beside we like challenge” He stood straight up like the one who will receive a medal.

“Is he always like this?” Scarlett whispered to her uncle.

“Always” said headmaster deadpanned.

“Should I throw more knives to him that night,” Scarlett muttered. Then she put a smile back on her face. “Yes. Something like that, and as a token of gratitude her highness would like to invite you to a dinner in the palace at Crimson Moon Festival.”

The three of them could only stare blankly when heard it, don’t know what they have to say or how to react until Aska shouted for joy.

“Dinner in the royal palace? Do you believe that?!” said Aska. “A lot of food, and music, and … can I take pictures with the king? My brothers will envy to me and Maruru, she will be excited on me.”

“Yeah, but do you forget that you must go home to Vindhavar which mean you shall miss the dinner like you would miss our festival.” said Eorin.

“It could be waiting.”

“You said it was clan issue, all member of the clan must be there.”

“I’m not important person, so they can go on without me,” said Aska “Besides the nation was over tribe, it would be our proud if one of Talvar Clan could sit there among royalties and their guests, usually only Kagan-Uttar, the prime chief of North Volk Tribe could attend such royal invitation.”

“Well what’s your answer? We wouldn’t force you neither your absence will consider as insult, for the princess wanted to meet you all as personal.”

“I’m in of course, there’s a lot of delicious food there and maybe we’ll be rewarded. I don’t mind if it just a pocket of gold or just a pocket of florin.” said Aska “How about you pal?”

“I think it’s interesting. I never got into the palace even in the place I belong.” said Rey. “Beside the princess invited us, we will dishonored her if we don’t came.”

On the other side Eorin gave no answer but a fake smile spreads under her anxious eyes. “I’ve been join committee in this Grove. I don’t know if I could attend that royal dinner.” said Eorin “But I will be taking a time to come.”

“That’s would be nice.” said Scarlett “How about you, uncle? There’s always a seat for the headmaster of the Grove.”

“No thanks.”

“Why? Uncle is an honorable man. Most noble in Lucretia had respect on you.”

“It’s not about that. The event was held after the final exam, the students like them may be off but I would be busier than usual. Every year I just saw the fireworks from here while take a cup of tea, alone but very peaceful.” answered headmaster. “And one more thing, you should keep an eye on this bird-head.” said headmaster pointing at Aska.

“What?! Don’t you trust me?” said Aska.

“Indeed.” said Scarlett “You know what, I will deploy additional troops and share his sketches.”

“It looks like I will do a burglary.” said Aska “I swear by the mother of monkey I wouldn’t do nothing. Look at my face! Don’t you believe me?” said Aska put innocent face.

“I’m getting more suspicious to you after seen that.”

“So you really don’t believe me?”

“No!” said three of them in unison.

Rey laughed, after all they had passed he didn’t imagined that they would reunite again and laughing together like this. But then the laughter faded away into thin smile, for they reminded him of home. Although he was get used to be here, with new bond he made and new love he created, and with joy and sorrow they have shared. But he couldn’t deny that his heart bound stronger to them who were in his own world, grandpa, Asti, Melody even Reno. Now he understands Morran’s words about ‘bound by genesis’, for he bound with them since he birth, longer and tighter by memories and times.

Suddenly all sounds fall into muteness and everything surround become motionless as if the time had stopped. But there’s one who could walk over the frozen river of time; Rey stepped slowly and looking around, he confuses to see everything was still within the moment. Soon he realized one of his Sphere glowing – the black one which brought him here, it was glow bright as if calling him for home. He realized that he must parted with them now and return to his home. No good bye couldn’t be told nor farewell party been held, but before the power of the black Sphere brought him he stood looking at them with wistful smile on his face as if he had already missed them.

“Good bye my friends!”

***

Under the clear night the sea was cold and still, stretched dark but lined by a long pale gleam of the crescent moon. Of the north a white cruise sailed and cleaved the surface. It was shining bright among the sea dark and wakened all lives beneath the waves with the song of ‘Bem-bem Maria’ filled the night and sea.

Night seems don’t hold those whom over the cruise from their awake. People still looked around, laughing, talking, tried to enjoy their bucks in the floating bliss. Kids spent more time on the pool while those who had more ages and height were just wandering around, either it looking their own kids, have chit-chat with the others or just lay down to relaxing themselves. Like big middle-aged man who sitting at the edge of the pool with cigar on his hand. For him this is the peak of his life, enjoying the beauty of the sea and stars over the cruise while tasted his 20 dollar cigar.

However the moment wasn’t as perfect as he was expected with the kids playing around on the pool and the clamoring parents to warn their kids not to go deep. And suddenly a boy jumping to the pool and broke the surface, splashing the big guy and off his cigar till soaked. At once he’s got angry and yelled at that boy while told him to get out of the pool. The boy was frightened and swam away but the guy chased him all along the edge of the pool.

All of sudden a light kindled at the bottom of the pool and the surface foamed. Everyone in the pool got panicked and immediately climbed out of the pool. The big guy forgot his madness right away and gave his hand to the boy to help him up. For a moment everyone look worried about the pool, for they thought there was short circuit. But soon it was disappeared, leaving the pool in quietness and ripple.

As they peered into surface, suddenly Rey come up with a long sigh as if he had just been drowned. He took breath continuously while look to and fro. Nothing he could see except blurred light on his cloudy vision and all the sound and voice muted by the water in his ears. Then his eyes gradually recovered, though not quite clear to see and the muteness by the water now turned into the cries of panic and curiosity.

He looked around while gasping for breath. Then he swam to the edge, where he got helped by the ship crews to get out of the pool. For a while he bit confused, everything around was familiar for him, the decoration, their fashion and Latin alphabet which he could found on every side of the ship, yet all of it seemed strange for him. Then he was surprised by the news on the TV. He walked slowly into the screen with wonder and amazement as if he was being hypnotized by it. However it’s not the news that drew him but the date which shown on the left corner of the screen, the date was the same date when he left from this world.

To his surprise a hand landed on his shoulder. Rey turned around. It was the captain, old and gray-bearded like an old actor from classic movie.

“How did you get here? Where did you come from?” asked the captain.

“Well, I’m from …” said Rey confused. He was turned to and fro trying to find answer of where he is. All peoples stared at him with strange looks, especially to his attire. And when he looked to the south his eyes fixed and he stunned with disbelief. Of all possibilities where he would be, he never expected such view before his eyes. A tower stood tall in the center of the dark horizon. It was national monument which became the symbol of Jakarta, the Monas. “…here.”

From distant sea he could see the monument. Blue ray dispersed on the obelisk and the Flame of Independence shining gold on the top. He’s surprised when he knew that he was already in his own country, in his own land though it was quite far from Jakarta to Cibadut city. Suddenly he’s laughing, jumping up and down full of joy and shouting like a mad.

“I’m home! I’m home! I’ve got home, yeah.” “Bravo! Roberto! Sasando!” shouted Rey in joy.

People there were amused by him. Few of them even consider Rey is part of the show prepared by the Cruise.

“Is he mad?!”

Chapter 28

The Last Melody

Three days had passed since he back to his own world. After he got himself on the cruise at Jakarta Rey must dealt with the authorities and had his face in the newspaper for the next day, in the small article about a teen intruding the cruise and it less noticed by most people for it was put in a little column at the last page. Well, at least as a young intruder it would give him ease on paperwork rather than being considered as a lunatic. He and his grandfather just had to report once a month.

The common life was restored on him. Everything still the same like the last time he remembered, nothing had changed. He still passed the usual path to get to school with the same short-haired girl he always by, people walking around with ordinary fashion and routines of his own world and he got his shoe hidden at break time and like always, the culprit had to deal with Asti for what they’ve done.

However, the journey to Spheria made everything felt little different to him now. All he had through there, fears and excitement, joy and sorrow, enmity and friendship, hunted down by the beasts till fought the giant, visits the great city of Lucretia till the darkness inside the great worm, stepped marble floor and green garden of Ishtar Grove till hit the cold stones of ruined castle where evil lies. All like the dream had passed, but still unforgotten.

He felt glad but also sad at the same time for being apart with Aska, Eorin and the others. But this is his world and he had a life to continue. However he brought something from there, something from the journey he had, a little courage that he will lives his life with that. And one promises about the girl who is now standing not far in front of him. A beautiful girl stood alone waiting for someone with blazer keeps on her arm. Every now and then she smiled and greeted her friends who passing by and said hello.

Rey then muttered to himself as he looked at the sweet smile of the girl, and his eyes filled with yearning as if never seen that smile in thousands season that has passed.

“Mel, I just wanted to say …, you might already know that …, you know first time I see …, hey what about the cactus? Do you like it? I left it while climbed your fences, it isn’t hard though.” said Rey sighed “Geez, I hope talking to you isn’t so hard like this.”

The girl looked at him with soft gaze and smiled. For the first time he have courage to look at her and for the first time he ever realized how much he is in her life, maybe not as someone special but he always there, live among good and fond memories of her.

“Hh-hi!” said Rey nervous.

“Hi!”

Rey then stood beside her. It seemed the fate had give him a chance to him but instead of talked to her he just stood nervous and awkward. No word has spoken for her.

“Where’s Asti? Did you always together?” asked Melody first.

“She’s been hold inside and she told me to wait here.” answered Rey.

Rey paused for a moment to grasp the Black Sphere in his pocket. It was reminding him of what was he going through there, hunted by dragons and beasts of another realm, almost been killed by cold-blooded killer and survive against malignant giant. He had conquered all fears to small measure of courage. Nevertheless, he ever confined inside the giant worm, envisages himself trapped in dark and cold place where no one could ever found his bone. But now he stood relishing the warmth and brightness of the sun, the wind blew in gentle breezes and he breathe with relief, and at this present he could see the girl he loved standing under yellowish green canopy tree looking at him with soft gaze and spoke to him. After many things he had through, it would be foolish for him if he does not speak a word to her, beside he had promised to that crazy old man that he would say his feeling to her when he come back home. Rey then took deep breath and embraced himself to speak to her.

“Hi!”

“Hi again.” said Melody. She chuckled when heard him say ‘hi’ twice.

“Mel!”

“Yes?!”

“You know, we have been friends since junior high … and to be honest I felt we didn’t know each other. I have thought maybe we could go together, you know get into cinema or couple of coffee, or juice maybe.”

However, after he said that her reaction was unexpected, worse than the worst things he could imagine – the girl frowned and gave him strange look as if he had asked her for a freak show. He wondered which part of his words that sounds odd. Suddenly the situation turned awkward for him, even the mean girls in the school wouldn’t react like that, at least ignored or mocked by them feel better than what he got from Melody now.

Saved by the bell as they usually said, but this one was literally, for the bell which had saved him was come from the red car which usually picked her up. He didn’t know whether to be happy or hurt. The girl smiled slightly while saying goodbye to him, but before she enters the car the girl paused for a moment staring at him with soft glance, “Thanks for the cactuses anyway, and the gun. That’s … cute.” said her with sweet smile on her face. “See you tomorrow.”

The girl went on but Rey just stood there mesmerized among falling leaves as if that moment, that sweet smile had always been there, still before his eyes. Until Asti knocked his head and broke his daydream.

“What the hell is that? I thought you want to ask her out?” Asti look upset.

“Indeed I am.”

“No, what I heard was you said something weird, like in that fantasy movie, eleu nelei, bleh, bleh, bleh, something like that. No wonder she ran away, what was that anyway?”

“Vvhaaat?” said Rey shocked when heard that.

“Don’t make a face like that, your face look silly already.” said Asti. Then he walked.

However Rey halted behind and with excitement and wonder he took the black Sphere in his pocket. There he found a point of light inside the black Sphere, grew bright like morning star in the blackness. He smiled, as if he just found new adventure.

“Let’s go home!” cried Asti.

“O-Okay.”

Epilogue

The forest was young and green, looks bright under clear sky. From the woods the old man came out. It was Morran, walked slowly and he carried a sack of food tied in his staff. He looks enjoyed everything he seen and his steps very light on the grass. Sometimes he look crazy, later he got confused and being fool and not often he got tears especially for the sun, many trees he hugged and he sniffing to the flowers and ate it. He walked directionless, had no plan or nowhere to go.

This morning when he guarding the house to protect those children a group of man came, he recognized them as Ishtar Royal Army, though their armor and helmet slightly different from his time. Morran then fought and beat them till someone with rectangular spaulders stopped them and halted him. For a while he hold his magic as the captain talk to him, she told to him that they were ordered to check this village if there’s any survivor left and she brought the news about their victory on the castle. Morran didn’t say a word, only asked about Scarlett and Rey and the man who brought them but the captain didn’t have information about them, and he rarely speak about himself when she asked him. Then he demanded to her to protect those children inside and do her best to find their parent. After the woman gave her word he leaves into the forest.

Now, after he wandering or might be lost in the forest he got himself on the vast green plain. The sun has climbed down and the golden light gleamed on the green plain. Black mark was seen everywhere on the stretching plains. Seemed there was a battle and their flame was raging there.

The old man then walked aimlessly on the plains and he humming with lyrics that sounds garbled. And after walked for few minutes he finally saw something in the distance. It was dark and seemed big, and bulged in the middle of plains. At first he thought it was rock or wood which deliberately placed there for fun. But after observing closely what it was, he laughed and deliriously happy. The creature he remembered in the great moment in his life, when the war had on all four nations. One of the Dragon Rider from Ishtar Kingdom had saved him in the past and he looked it in awe when the dragon soaring into the sky with the vast dark wings stretched.

The man walked silently from behind with light steps and tongue out, looks very crazy and naughty. And when he close enough the old man jumped to the dragon’s back. The Wyvern startled and at once it leaped to fly into the sky.

“Oh Wyvern, the mighty dragon, Lord of Fire and Sky, now you’re under…, umm, my power, my knowledge, my control, what the best words for this,” said Morran thinking hard, and then he raised his staff and shouted again. “Oh Wyvern, the mighty dragon, Lord of Fire and Sky, now you’re under my legs, I command you to fly to Runeglade, where knowledge carved on their walls and floor.”

The Wyvern of course, flying by their own instinct and wildness but Morran thought that the dragon flying following his command. Now the sky wonderfully stretched red above the land and they flew to the northwest where the sun about to set.

“Hey I can see my mom’s house from here … well, it’s not.”

 or maybe they used earmuffs

 


The Sphere: The Phantom of the West Rim

It all began when Rey found a black crystal ball inside the old relic. Taken out of the blue by the mysterious power of the crystal, he finds himself in the world called Terra, a world where the civilization shaped by magical orb called Sphere. Two decades have passed after the fall of the Dark Lord and Spheria at the time of peace since then. But now the unknown menace spreads in the Kingdom of Ishtar, on the west a mysterious army called Phantoms swept one village to another, took their peoples and leaved the place into desolation. His unexpected meeting with Scarlett, a royal guardian, has brought him into a mission to investigate this mysterious incident. Along with Aska of the Volk Tribe, a tribe who can transform into wild beast and Eorin, a girl skilled in crafting magic they went into a dangerous journey; hunts by assassins and dragon rider, fought against Gargantua, an abominable giants from nameless realm and battles against the Phantoms. On the journey they found that the old enemy began to rise and the old horror will spread upon the world.

  • ISBN: 9781370594818
  • Author: Fandy Adams
  • Published: 2017-02-24 17:35:23
  • Words: 107184
The Sphere: The Phantom of the West Rim The Sphere: The Phantom of the West Rim