Lucien nodded as he led the way into her room and closed the door behind her. “Not the worst day I ever head but still is far from the best. It is true we managed to get on of your brother with us.” Lucien walked over to Arora bed and fell flat out on it. Sighing deeply, he rubbed his face. “That last one took a lot out of me. It never easy watching someone die to help you.” He remembered back to his time as a child and how many had died protecting him. It was something that he didn’t want Arora to go thought.
He laid like that on his back thinking for some time. “So, what the plan now we are only half the way to our first target. We still need to pass throw some heavy forest before we make in to the port. If I remember the map right it at least another two days by foot. After that we can hire a boat to get us across the ocean to Noha.” He was quite for a while thinking about what would happen after they got there. Luna would be close by Camilla and like him would be loyal to her lord.
Few knew that Luna and Lucien were married or that they knew each other beyond working to the same family of lord. Only Arora, Camilla and two other new that means if Camilla attacked them, he would have to fight him. The idea pained him in more than one way. Lucien was a good fighter but when it came to the blade Luna was his better and had proved that over several times. Second was he didn’t like the idea of trying to hurt her or her getting hurt. He had a close connection with her as he did with Arora. If it was to come to a fight, he would have to handle her and he knew she would be mad and not hold back in showing him that.
“I know I asked this but what do you plan to do once we get to Noha you can't think that they will welcome us with any more welcome then Hoshido.” he asked rolling to his side to watch Arora.
Arora thanked Lilith for all her work. She wanted to make sure Lilith knew how much she appreciated all of this. It was making the whole journey so much easier on all of them.
She thought Takumi and the others surprise was understandable, but she smiled anyway. It was sort of fun to see everyone’s first reaction to the space. She watched everyone go in to get settled, glad they had this chance to rest. They needed to plan too. Without a lead on the Seal of Flames and only a vague clue about a dragon to go on that whole trail seemed like a dead end for the moment. At least until they could make sense of the clue the Archduke gave them.
“Hm?” Arora looked at Lucien, then nodded,”Yeah, plenty to think about. This day didn’t go… as well as I had hoped. Still, at least Takumi is here now.”
Arora started walking back to her room with Lucien. She really was tired, but she wasn’t sure she’d be able to sleep with her mind racing,”I hope he can trust us. I’m not sure he’s really happy with his decision at the moment… Maybe with Sakura here it will help. What do you think?”
“I wish he hadn’t died ether but I can waste his dying wish.” Takumi said walking away. His two retainers followed close behind him. His seem to still distrust her but he swallowed his pride and moved forward. Everyone else nodded and moved to follow Arora orders. Lucien was the last one to follow as he took one last look back over the temple before follow.
They walked for about two hours before stopping to allow them to rest. “So, I’ll start getting wood for a fire.” Takumi said getting ready to set up camp.
“No need for that.” Lucien said looking up to see Lilith floating above them. “We have our own base.” Just then she floating down and smiled. “So many people great work lady Arora you got so many more people.” She flew around looking at everyone. “Also, I managed to set up more of the castle and support building even have a prison now if you need it.” Happy with her work so open the portal.
Everyone that knew what to expect walked in no question but Takumi and a few of the new member stared shocked. “What you never seen a portal to another realm before?” Lucien asked as if it what the most normal thing in the world. To him it was he couldn’t remember how many of these he had gone throw. It took Sakura a few minutes with the help of Lilith to explain what was happening but once they the came a bit more wilily.
Once everyone was in the went off to their room with Lilith helping any new member find a room for themselves. This left just Lucien and Arora by themselves. “Well this has been a day.” He said sighing. “Come one let get you to back to your room I’m sure you are tired and have a lot on your mind.
He knew she wanted to ask about the Seal of Flames, but didn’t know about it. Arora felt hopeful and then disappointed very quickly. Shun the light and dark… she wasn’t sure if that was really her, but think so. All there was left to do was wait for him.
Arora waited quietly, lost in thought and her concerns. It was tough not being able to tell everyone the truth now that she knew, but she couldn’t tell them nor could she abandon her goal of defeating their real enemy now that she did know.
When he returned with the message Arora stood and looked concerned and puzzled. Go see the dragon. It didn’t make sense to her, and worse it seemed to have cost a great deal to get that message for them.
Arora lowered her head. She never would have let him get the message if she’d known it would cost his life. She felt guilty, but Takumi was right. She couldn’t waste his sacrifice. It was bittersweet that this was what convinced Takumi to help her. She nodded to him,”I’m glad to have you with me, though I wish the cost weren’t so high.”
It was hard for her to feel so cheerful then, with the Archduke having just died. She turned to the two coming with Takumi and welcomed them,”I’m glad to have you both join as well. Thank you.” It was time to move on from here. They still didn’t know anything about the Seal of Flames. It seemed to Arora it would be good for them to get a little bit of distance from here and then rest.
“We should get moving as soon as we can, then take a little time to rest and resupply. We’ll need to plan as well.” Without information on the Seal of Flames she wanted a chance to consider their next move. If they knew more about the seal that would be their obvious move, but with only the vague message to see a dragon it left them with very little to go on moving forward. She didn’t intend to forget the message though. If it had cost the Archduke his life it must be important, she just needed to wait until she understood.
“Oh, that's right. You were going to ask me about the Seal of Flames. I'm sorry, but I don't know a thing about it.” Izana said suddenly looking back at Arora.
“How could you possibly know what we were going to ask about?!” Valentine asked shocked
“Premonitions! Prophecies! Haven't you been paying attention? Even though I can't help you with the Seal of Flames... My family does have a saying that's been passed down for generations. ‘We will show she who shuns the light and dark another way’. So, there you have it!” Lucien wanted to face pam at the comment but he held back. Everyone else just looked confused as he felt.
Azura was the first to speak up. “What does that mean? Is Arora the one who shuns the light and the dark?”
“I think so!” He shrugged. “Thus, I need to show you a new path. If you'll excuse me, I'll go hold a little ceremony and ask an ancient god for help.”
“Uhhh...right now?” Valentine asked.
“Yep! Fortune favors the bold! Strike while the iron's hot! Carpe whatever! I want to get this little ceremony over with, in any case. Ancient gods aren't exactly easy on the eyes.” Izana then leave the group to do his ceremony.
“I hope he returns with some sort of helpful clue to all this...”
“I'm sure things will work out. Let's have faith and wait here for him.” Azura said taking a seat nearby.
“Sound good I get some tea.” Jakob said walking off. Everyone else followed Azura example and for a place to take a breather. All but Takumi who just stood there and said nothing. Lucien make sure to up himself between her lady and Takumi just in case.
After almost a half hour Izana come back looking a lot worse than he did when he left. “S-sorry to have...kept you waiting.” He was even breathing heavy. Sakura was the first to jump up and rush to him.
“Archduke, what's wrong?! You look exhausted!”
“I had a chat...with an ancient god... But even I don't understand it... It's so short, too... Go meet the dragon."
“A dragon?” Lucien aske now confused even more.”
“I'm sure you'll figure it out eventually... I really really hope you do, too. After all, I think I may—owww ow ow... Yup, definitely gave my life for the message.” Suddenly he fell to the floor. Everyone watches as Sakura hold him.
“What! You're dying? How did this happen?!” she cires trying to find any injures but she couldn’t.
"Well, the ceremony I performed always requires something in return. Every message has a price, and the cost of this one was my life. I'd really like it if a bard wrote a nice song about my noble sacrifice... Oh, Prince Takumi...I know I asked before, but... Make sure you help out Arora, OK?” He said as he looked up at Takumi smiling gently.
Takumi face was a mess as he tried to find the words “But...I...”
“What, you're still not willing? I'm dying here, and you're still unsure? Listen, if you don't...I'll come back as a ghost and haunt you. All the time. Boo.”
“Well, I said what I needed to say... Bye...bye...” With that he slowly closed his eyes smiling and like that he was gone.
Valentine smashed he fist into the wall as tear started flowing down her face “Why didn't he tell us this would cost him his life? Why...”
Sakura was also crying as she held his body. “Oh, Izana...”
Gunter lowed his head nodding in respect. “Giving up his life for the good of everyone. He was an admirable man.” Lucein nodded in agreement.
“Yes he was.”
Takumi turned to Arora and let out a have sigh “You must keep believing I this path, don’t you? Don't waste his sacrifice. Listen. I'm going to help you accomplish your mission. I'll fight with you. After all, it was the archduke's dying wish. So. I'm coming along...Sister.”
Just then two people walked up behind him. “Well, if Lord Takumi is going, I guess we'll have to go too!” The first one said. “Yup! I'd sooner die than be separated from Lord Takumi.” The other one said.
“And you are?” Lucien asked
The first person stepped forward a man with brown hair. “The name's Hinata! I'm one of Lord Takumi's retainers. I'm skilled with a katana—if I do say so myself. You'll like having me in a fight!” Then the other one walked forward a girl with long black hair. “My name is Oboro. Like Hinata, I am a retainer to Lord Takumi. If at all possible, I'd rather not interact with the Nohrians. But if we are to be allies, then I will do my best to cooperate... For Lord Takumi's sake.”
Arora wondered if Takumi would believe Izana, even if he wouldn’t believe her and Sakura. She noticed how shocked Lucien seemed when Izana gave him the message from his grandmother. She was curious, but decided maybe she could ask later.
His prophecy sounded pretty accurate to her, as far as what Arora knew and understood at least. Arora sighed. She couldn’t blame Takumi for wanting more specific answers, but none of them could give those answers, not without a great cost,”I’m afraid I really can’t say more, Takumi. I promise there’s a good reason, but I can’t even tell you that just yet. I know it’s asking a lot for you to believe me, since there’s so little I can explain.”
She was hoping he would believe her, or at least believe Izana. She hated having to keep the secret from her family and allies, but that made her want to gather the strength to fight the one responsible even more. It was so deviously clever to make it so difficult to find out and share information.
Takumi just stood there looking at her Just the Sakura ran up and hugged him. “Takumi! I'm so glad you're safe!” Her face almost had tears in them onjce she knew that her brother was safe. Takumi mostly looked confused
“Sakura? And... Arora and Azura. What are you all doing here?” He finally asked after some time.
Sakura was the first to answer. “Well...I decided that I would fight alongside Arora.”
Takumi face when red as he stepped back from her. “What? Sakura, you've turned against Hoshido as well? Ryoma is going to be devastated...”
“No, I h-haven't! Neither has Arora. No one here has, actually. None of us plan to fight against Hoshido. Arora says there is something much worse than Nohr's aggression going on. She can't explain, but I trust her. Takumi, p-please—trust her too!”
Takumi did say anything at first looking at Arora. Finally said. “Hmph... You'll have to excuse me if I don't find this flimsy explanation acceptable. Sakura say believe in your story—I don't.”
Just then Izana jumped in “Nonononono! Ahhh, this won't do! This won't do at all! You've got it all wrong, Prince Takumi!” That cause everyone one by surprise.
“What are you talking about?” Takumi asked the most confused.
“I'm not going to go into all the little details, but basically—join Arora. That's what the gods are telling me! Just got some prophetic stuff from them!” This again caused Lucien to get a bit angry. How could someone act so natural about their jobs about being the vocie of the gods.
“Huh? Something prophetic?! I can't believe that important prophecies just...happen all of a sudden like that.”
“Hey, who's the keeper of prophecies here, you or me? They come as they come. Would you really ignore directions sent down from the gods?” He then turned to Lucien. “O also your grandmother said hello and seems angry with you.
Lucien face went white at that. So he could talk to the gods it seemed even if they wernt this nations gods.
“You know, you say that, but... How can I choose to side someone who won't side with her homeland? Of course, I'm grateful they saved us, but... I just can't trust Arora.” Takumi said getting things back on track.
“Jeez, you're one tough nut to crack. What am I supposed to do with you? I don't like breaking out the big bows, but if a little extra prophesizing is needed... Well, Prince Takumi, that's just what you'll get!” Suddlenly his whole body went white as he started changling magic “*ahem* "Everything is not yet seen... The truth is far and hidden low. The one upon the water's surface, he who knows all is the true foe...” Then he went back to normal. “Whew. There ya go. The gods really want to speak to you, Prince Takumi. Princess Arora is not your enemy.”
“Then who is? What was Sakura saying a moment ago... That Arora knows something about our supposed enemy?”
“Takumi?” Arora was surprised to hear that Takumi was here as well. She went with the others to free the captives. These poor people, but aside from being tied and gagged Arora saw they seemed unharmed and for that she was glad.
Arora also found the real Izana surprising. He didn’t act like she expected, but that was fine. At least he and everyone else were all fine. “I’m glad you’re safe, Archduke Izana.”
She was trying not to laugh along with Sakura. His informal manner was confusing but putting most of them at ease in a way, Arora noticed. Then there was Takumi, just like they said. He was safe as well. Arora sighed,”I’m glad you’re alright, Takumi. I know you probably still think I’m a traitor, but I’m just trying to stop this and fight the real enemy.”
It was all she could tell him or anyone. She couldn’t name the person or even the place, or give any details without risking the curse. It was a lot of missing information that made her story hard to believe. Rather convenient for the true enemy, she supposed. It was impossible to mention him or his location by name without dying.
Lucien stood watch as Leo started to turn to leave. “Go on, Arora. The real archduke should be inside. Along with the pathetic Hoshidan prince, Takumi.” Stepping aside he hit lightly kicked his horse in the side to bring it into a jog. Within minutes he was out of sight.
“What? Do you mean—” Sakura asked rushing forward after hearing about her brother. “Arora! The banquet hall is filled with people! They've all been tied up!”
“You can't be serious!” Lucien said rushing in behind and sure enofe she was right the entire hall was filled with people. All tired up and gaged. It took the better part of an hour but they finally were able to cut everyone free and find the real Archduke. One he was free he Lucien smiled. ‘This one should be better then the fake.’ He said to himself.
“You're here! You're here! You've finally come to rescue me! Thank you so much! You really saved my life! I'm absolutely starving! My tummy has been rumbling for hours now!” Lucien almost feel over at that.
“Are you truly the archduke of Izumo?” Valentine asked rising an eyebrow.
“Why yes! That's me! Archduke Izana, first heir to the divine bloodline, descen—”
Azura stopped him before he could give the same speech they had heard early. “Sorry, Archduke, but we've kind of already heard this...”
“Even the hair part?”
“H-he's even more informal than the imposter...” Sakura said giggling a bit.
“Ah! The fair Princess Sakura! I believe your brother is around here somewhere. He was left in a situation similar to my own. I can only imagine how hungry he is now...”
Sakura nodded “Takumi really is here?” Just then Takumi came out from behind some people looking first at Sakura then to Arora. His eyes settled on her for a long moment waiting to see what she had to say before he went off.
Arora felt pretty hurt after the exchange. She felt like they were close to convincing Leo. He could see reason, but the fact that they couldn’t name the true threat was a frustrating obstacle. It was amazing as many people took her word for it as they did. Even understanding that, Leo’s words stung,”Leo, I… I hope I can tell you one day.”
She wasn’t sure what else to say. She wanted to ask him to stay and help, but he wanted answers she couldn’t give. She just had to hope that one day he would understand. She couldn’t demand people believe her with her unable to say so much.
Arora looked at Lucien,”We still need to find the real archduke and make sure he’s alright.”
Hopefully he would be able to give them some answers to help them. Arora could use it since she was feeling down after Leo’s rejection.
Leo sit there on his horse overlooking everyone saying nothing only glaring at Arora. Leon could feel the anger coming from him. He locked eyes with her and finally said. “Why do you care traitor?” The voice rang out with ice.
“That cruel Leo.” Lucien said stepping forward. “She didn’t pick a side.”
“That right we found out that King Is being Manipulated by a third party.” Azura said stepping forward to help defend Arora.
This got his attentions he lifted his head to look them all. “What? How do you know this and what proof do you have?”
This cause Arora to pull back a bit as she looked over at Arora like trying to conform something. “Listen carefully. He didn't want to start a war with Hoshido. He's being controlled by our real enemy—someone hiding behind the scenes. This invisible foe is who we should really be after!”
Taking a few second to think about it he asked. “Well then, tell me who is pulling the strings. Name the Manipulator.”
This caused a few people to look away. Most didn’t understand why but they trusted Arora. “I’m sorry... we can’t say who it is.”
Leo anger seem to returned at this. “Unsurprising. I don't know why I wasted time listening to your ramblings. You're a traitor. I don't want to hear your excuses. Let me make this as clear as I can... You have abandoned our family, and I have extended you the same courtesy. I no longer think of you as my sister/brother. Got it? I only came here to clean up that vile mage. You and I will settle our differences some other time.” He started to turn and leave.
Just when Arora was sure they would have to surrender to save Sakura, Zola was defeated but not by any of them. She recognized that as well, though at first she wasn’t sure of she could believe it.
“Leo! I’m so glad to see you. Thank you for saving Sakura.” Her excitement at seeing her brother was not entirely enough to overcome the look he was giving her. Of course he didn’t understand, not yet. It kept her from rushing toward him, though she was still very glad to see him,”I was hoping for a chance to talk with you, and the others too.”
She wasn’t quite sure where to start explaining for Leo, especially given the things she couldn’t explain. So she hesitated and asked quietly,”How is everyone? How are you?”
“I’ll do anything I have to win.” He smiled evilly. “Even if that mean I have to hurt this girl. Now drop your weapons.” Suddenly what looked like branches started growing behind Zola. With intense ferocity they shot into the back of Zola forcing him to drop the knife and letting go of Sakura. “GYA” he screamed out in pain as the spikes shot thought his body. Lucien felt no pitty for the man as he felt like he knew that kind of magic. “It can't be... That magic…"
Walking out from the darkness was Leo holding his legendary spell book. Brynhildr “You were the lowest of the low, Zola... Hiding behind hostages—you disgraced the entire Nohrian army.” Zola looked in shocked before falling to the ground dead.
“Seems we owe you thanks for for saving Sakura.” Lucien said lowing his weapon. Leo said nothing as he just looked over the crowd as his eyes settled on Arora. They seemed anger but with a tinge of hurt.
Rather than an illusion it seemed they had been holding back a sizable force. Until Lucien mentioned some of them could be illusions, which made sense. Arora just couldn’t tell which was which, so the fight was hard.
Arora would be distracted by a fighter that turned out to be an illusion more than once, but one of those times a real enemy had come in at her side. She parried his blade, but his momentum sent them both tumbling to the ground. He’d landed on top of her, and there was a pretty bad pain in her him where she landed. Thankfully he was disoriented from the fall too, and she recovered. Arora was pretty sure she’d have a bruise from that. It wasn’t bad enough she had to stop and deal with it immediately, so she pressed on until they had the mage cornered.
Arora had been feeling pretty confident until the flash of light. “Sakura! Let her go!”
Not only was she afraid for her sister, Arora was furious that he’d hold her sister hostage like that. She wanted to attack, but there was no way they would be able to get to him before he hurt her. Arora grit her teeth, her knuckles white with how tight she was gripping her sword,”You’re despicable. So this is what you’re willing to do to win?”
The castle was luckily a one-way path so I wouldn’t be hard to stay together. Charging the push up into what looked like a small army of troops. “They can't have that many left, can they?” Some asked. “We don’t know how many troops they had in the first place but some could also be illusions.” Lucien said as the enemy charged.
Lucien had been right that somewhere Illusions but he been unlucky found that out. He gone to cut one of the troops down only to be stabbed in the back as his blade hit nothing. Letting out a pained cried he turned and cut down the enemy that had hit him. Luckily the wound wasn’t deep.
“Lucien are you okay?” Kaze asked running up to him.
“Yea” He hissed in clinched teeth. “It nothing just stings. Keep pushing I be a second.” He pulled a small position form his belt and downed it. Instantly the pain stopped and he let out a sigh of releaf.
Even with the illusions it didn’t stop everyone from pushing to the mage and his guards. ““Mweh-hehehehe! You can't possibly defeat me!” Zole laughed casting lighting at a group of them. His magic was powerful as but he couldn’t keep them all down. “Gah! I cant believe it.” he said once his back was against the wall.
“We've won. You can't escape now, Zola. Tell us where the archduke is!” Kaze said once he was surrounded.
“HA! You really think it'd be that easy? What a naive little boy you are. I always have an escape plan!”
“What are you—?!” Someone cried as a flash of light blinded everyone. Once it cleared Zola was holding Sakura with a knife to her neck.
“Ho! Look at me and my adorable hostage!” He laughed
“Arora” Sakura cried out in shock.
“Sakura! Let her go, Zola! Are you really going to stoop this low? Do the honorable thing!” Azura said.
“Let her go you monster or I’ll rip you limb for limb.” Lucien threated once he got closer.
“Pfft yo your honor! I'd rather win than be honorable! After all, the winner is the one who writes the history books! Now, put down your weapons! If you don't, the girl to get hurt.”
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