Joseph let out a breath he had been holding and let himself be dragged back along in the direction that he’d pointed in. The Dealer eventually started trailing after them, having no real choice but to follow the ring, but Joseph didn't mind anymore. His mind was now on finding Philip and his limp and pains and healing lashes weren't going to stop him. The forest was quiet now, with no sounds of wildlife or illusions trying to trick them. The ring really did have some sort of powerful effect. They were able to walk unhindered till the ground grew soft and the smell of the marsh reached them, there was a sound in front of them and then a thud as something move away from them.
Moving towards the sound, Joseph saw first over the brush and thickets, Philip’s body and immediately he let go of Juno’s hand and rushed to his friend’s side. His breathing was shallow and besides a few scrapes and small bruises, Philip didn't seem seriously wounded at all. The young man first tried shaking his friend to get him,but when that didn't work, he began to worry and feel for a heartbeat. Philip had one, but it was weak and Joseph began to feel panic rising in him as he knew they couldn't help his friend by themselves.
Ryuu let out a quiet chuckle at Enoch’s words. He appreciated the way his spy thought, though it wasn't always that easy. For now they needed to head back to the castle, regroup and recover, and leave better prepared to deal with the forest’s dangers to find the escapees.
When Artemis began to doubt and question if she should continue, Karim’s threatening voice cut through her mind like thunder.
[b And who do you think would help the likes of you?]
His words meant to cut deep with Artemis and he may certain to be cruel. He relying on her but that didn't mean he was going to let her think she had a choice.
[b No one will help you here. The Light Nation would rather have you burn then leave alive.]
The All Demon’s presence was suddenly close to her and Karim’s voice grew harsher and venomous as he hissed to her.
[b Remember we made a deal. There is no backing out, you will uphold your end of it. And I will send you back to Muerte.]
Muerte. Her home in the Dark Age. That’s why she was doing this, right? To go back there, to leave behind all of these troubles… Right?
Eric remained quiet with Ximena, letting her sit comfortably on the bed next to him while he continued to hold her hands. They didn't talk, they didn't reminisce or voice their regrets, the former prince knew Ximena didn't deserve to relive that. He looked up slightly as the door was opened but he wasn’t expecting much, the most he expected was for an escort of soldiers to tell him that his brother and Artemis had been found and that it was time for his execution. But there were no soldiers there, just a servant boy with cold inhuman eyes watching them for a moment. He then spoke up, telling Ximena that it was time for her to leave. He listened to her try to protest but the servant mentioned that this would lead to more punishment for Joseph, he stiffened and tightened his grip on her hands just slightly. Eric shared Ximena’s tearful look before she left and he narrowed his eyes towards the boy as he looked back and grinned towards the wounded devil. That smile put a knot in his stomach and he listened to the door close and then silence.
He could feel that something awful was going to happen, something even worse than everything else that had happened to them. He closed his eyes, trying to keep the thought in his mind that there was nothing that he could do now and that if he didn't cause any more trouble than his brother might not be treated as badly once he was gone. He tried to hold onto those thoughts, tried to just accept his sealed fate and know his demise was coming. Rest was all he could do, but as he finally felt his mind begin to dull and his thoughts begin to fade, a noise caught his attention and jolted him awake. It was sharp and and frightened sound. A scream. The knot in Eric’s stomach twisted even tighter and he forced himself up into a sitting position. Ximena, he needed to make sure that she had truly left the castle.
He tried to push himself onto the edge of the bed to stand but the open wound in his gut burn and he groaned in pain. Artemis had done a number on him but he couldn't let that stop him. Both philip and Ximena were free to leave, so the most he could do was make sure they did, unharmed and unpursued. He slowly crept to the door once he found the strength to do so and he pushed open the door, peering into the hall. There was no one in sight and he only hesitated when he noticed the summoner’s circle at the edge of the doorway. He then noticed that it was scratched across in several places and he cautiously stepped across the circle. Nothing happened and he breathed a sigh of relief, cringing slightly before pushing past the pain and stalking down the corridors.
Juno's determined mind eyes showed hesitation when he pointed at the depth of the deadly forest. She bit her tongue and held on the ring tightlier before nodding. She made a step forward but was immediately yanked back by the back of her dress. The Dealer glared at Joseph. " This is clearly a trap. Let's go. We have important things to do." He tried to drag her along but Juno frowned, the angriest frown a kid could give and stomped on ground. "NO!" The girl screamed which was very rare of her timid nature. This startled dealer and Juno managed to free herself and run to Joseph. "He needs help! The shrine always helped people!" She explained and earned herself a roll of eye from dealer but ignored it and grabbed Joseph's hand, pulling him along to the direction he pointed earlier.
Bird followed his victorious gaze and spotted the unwelcome guest who immediately lunged for her. Bird was distracted and busy with the troublesome Summon while Ryuu went for Enoch. Enoch pulled roughly on the horse's reins and made it trot towards the Summoner. He helped Ryuu up before leaving the two creatures behind who was hissing and snarling at each other. "Why don't you poison the damned Johar anyway? He is always on your nerve~" Enoch grumbled while riding the horse towards the road leading them out of the hell.
Artemis yelped as her body hit the ground, the bugs swarming around her with their annoying noises. Artemis hugged herself tightly to protect her uncovered places from their painful bites before she stiffened at the order. The little Ba'al also noticed that the bugs retreated. Slowly and shakily she stood and walked fast. The bugs started biting on her skin, making her swear and stumble some. She couldn't see through the illusion and it was so real for her. Finally the torture finished and she looked around at the place, panting. The circle pattern was clearly in her mind but...
She looked back. What happened to Joseph? Artemis hesitated before suddenly sitting. All this trouble...
Dragging Joseph along...
Eric was still there...probably something bad happening to him...
And this demanding Demon within her...
For a simple portal?
Did it worth it?
Could she even trust Karim?!
Tiredness and pushing limits brought doubts.
"What if...What if I quit?" Slowly Artemis whispered. "Joseph...he is in trouble...he can't even run in that state and..I just left him there like a coward...All these troubles...are not caused by the hybrid...This time..it is all mine. Maybe...I should...I should just give up. Go find someone else."
Back to the castle, Ximena was still by Eric's side. She was quiet and sometimes a tear slipped down her cheeks. Yet she tried not to cry again. Suddenly the door clicked open and Ximena gasped, assuming they had come for Eric's execution. She stuck herself to Eric but then relaxed slightly seeing a teenage boy with blue hair. However she didn't become too comfortable since he had such unfriendly inhumane eyes. Cyan stared at the two for a minute before pointing at Ximena. "You should leave. Let me escort you out ma'am." Ximena frowned slightly and shook her head. "No..No...I...asked for permission...I.."
"Ma'am. I'm Master Ryuu's servant. He ordered me to take you away since you are not allowed to stay in castle anymore."
"Ma'am. This behavior will only effect on the demon's brother punishment once he is captured."
"...!" Confused and scared, the clueless Ximena who feared Ryuu more now gave Eric a tearful look then started walking out slowly shedding tears. Of course she had no idea of castle systems and that Ryuu was not in the position to decide about the punishments or trials of important criminals. And that Ryuu had no personal servant like the higher ups. Cyan gave a grin at Eric as closing the door behind. Now it was a good chance to take revenge from Ryuu. Ximena noticed she was not being led out but towards...Ryuu's chambers?! She stopped. "This...this...is not the-"
"Master wants to see you for one last time..."
"Is...is he here...has he-?"
"Hmm? No. What in there until he arrives." Cyan pushed the confused dancer in and closed the door. Ximena looked around, feeling uneasy. She suddenly felt breathing on her neck and gasped looking back only to see a monster changing its colours and revealing itself. It had wandered in for Ryuu and now Ximena smelt like him a lot because of the recent infractions...It bared its teeth and Ximena screamed going for the door but it was locked. She banged on the door shouting and screaming. The guards did heard but...were they going to risk their lives a simple peasant immigrant who was not wise enough to leave the castle once she was freed?! So they waited so the monster would be too busy with feasting on the girl then they would attack it when it was less bloodthirsty.
Joseph smiled in seeing that Juno was willing to help him and he gestured back in the direction that the illusions had gone. He had to go back and find Philip to make sure his friend was alright. He could see that the other man didn’t want to help but he hoped that Juno still would, even if it meant going back deeper into the forest.
Ryuu glanced back over his shoulder, seeing that Bird was diving for him, her claws ready. Bracing himself, the Summoner jumped from Enoch’s steed and rolled to one side, hearing Bird land with snarl. He quickly got to his feet and his hands began to move, writing and drawing symbols into the air as he stepped back from Johar’s monster. It was only a few seconds more before he pointed the palm of his hand towards the ground at Bird’s feet. A circle appeared but of course she didn't stand still, Ryuu ducked to one side and quickly drew another set of symbols in the air. Out of a sudden rip in the air, he drew that strange sword again and he held it out in front of him. It was purely for defence since he didn't actually know how to use it for battle and with what little time it gave him, he looked towards the circle and twisted his hand up into a fist.
That slight distraction left him open for attack and Ryuu suddenly felt Bird plow into him, knocking him over and raking her claws over his shoulders. Landing hard on his back left him gasping for a few moments and he stared up as Johar’s monster lifted up her claws to cut out his heart. A sound from the circle made him glance over and he grin as his own Summon crawled out of the circle and lunged for Bird. It would hold her off long enough for him to get away and he immediately dissipated the sword while jumping to his feet to flag Enoch down again. His spies horse had spooked and didn't want to cooperate with going back for Ryuu, but the Summoner didn't have any trouble finding Enoch and giving his order. They needed to get out of the woods before anything else happened, gather up the rest of the patrol and regroup in the capital.
As Artemis yelled, the steed spooked and kicked it’s back legs up, throwing the Ba’al before bolting off through the trees. The bugs seemed to be swarming across the ground towards her, stinging and biting relentlessly. Suddenly the swarm drew back away from her and Karim’s cold voice hissed at her.
[b Get up.]
The pain from the stings and bites still lingered but looking at her hands, Artemis couldn’t see any bumps or bite marks. This was another illusion, stronger than the others since she could see, hear, and feel it. But it wasn’t real.
[b Keep walking. You will find sanctuary soon.]
After he said that, the scuttling of the bugs filled Artemis’ ears again and they began to sting and bite at her. They may have been an illusion but the pain felt quite real. There was a break in the tree’s ahead of her, if she could just keep walking. Reaching the tree line, the scuttling and scratching of the bugs faded and the pain dulled, almost becoming a memory as she looked up and found that she was uninjured, her mind clearing and the task at hand becoming evident. There was a large grassy prairie in front of her and no soldiers in sight. She had time, but it wouldn’t be enough if she wasted it.
Juno blinked several times, realizing he needed help but didn't know what he was saying. Why didn't he talk instead? "You need help?" She simply asked and gripped tighter on the ring which was still warm and active. She approached the former prince and places her small hand on his and looked up worriedly. She was scared too but the little followed the Dealer since he was the only one who somehow could protect her so she naturally clung to him. The Dealer sighed and walked to Juno grabbed her hand. "Let's go. He can't even talk. I say he is Coo-Coo." Juno resisted keeping her hand around Joseph's. "But you said it is dangerous to be alone here..." Dealer rubbed his forehead, preferring to go after Karim's presence he just felt in this place. Juno clung on Joseph's arm to confirm she was going to help him.
Bird was chasing after Ryuu without a hesitation. Those cold eyes of hers were set on her master's enemy. She was determined to tear out his heart and take it to Johar. This mere human dared to bother her precious Lord and now he had to pay. Bird dodged the trees skilfully and then realised they were in a clearing. She circled Ryuu from above and then dove down with her claws ready.
Artemis was not even thinking about going back to the circle since she wasn't eager to get arrested again. She was a bit taken back how he easily even affected her memory but again what she could do about it? The little Ba'al looked back and saw small figures after her. Good. They were not close. She looked forward again and realized there were too many trees to be real. Was this a trap? Was this Ryuu's doing? He was a Summoner but she wasn't sure about all of his abilities. She tried to avoid the trees as much as possible but the branches became thicker and thicker until her vision became green. Then she felt being stung on her arm. Tsking she smashed the bug on her hand. But then more bugs covered her body and she yelled in pain as trying to sweep them off.
The creature snarled and after a few moments it stilled and seemed to fade into its cloak. Lifeless and only a piece of cloth now, the remains of the summon was dropped and the vines turned fully on Philip ready to devour him. Joseph, not too far from where he’d separated from Philip, looked up at Juno and he recognized her as she little girl he’d sent off with Ximena.
He quickly sat up, ignoring the pain and looked over his shoulder, staring back towards the trees where the maidens had vanished. Back towards where he’d come from, back towards the swamps they were close to. He looked back towards the strange man that was with Juno and he nodded when she asked if he was fine. Really he wasn't but he’d been through worse. Pushing himself up and pleadingly looked towards Juno since she had the ring. He needed to go back and find Philip to make sure that he was alright and that those things didn't get him.
“I’m fine, I’m Fine Enoch.” Ryuu coughed, breathing heavily trying to regain the breath that was knocked out of him. “Don’t let her ge-!” He was mid shout when something grabbed him by his feet and he was flung into a tree. Again the air was knocked out of his lungs and he gasped for breath before looking up towards the monster that had attacked him. He’d seen Bird before and his impression of her was that she was one of Johar’s more tamer yet secretive monsters. He narrowed his eyes when He met hers and he threw himself to one side as she struck out with her claws. Rolling onto his feet, Ryuu raced back over towards Enoch and ordered him back onto his steed before scrambling on after his spy.
“Go after Artemis and avoid this monster!” He shouted to the soldiers. “I’ll take care of her… Go!” He shouted to Enoch and they took off in an opposite direction from the one that Artemis had gone in, leading Bird away. Ryuu had a plan to get rid of Bird, but they needed space for it to work, not the dense thickets of the forest.
Karim had remained silent throughout Artemis’ searching and fighting and her flight from the fighting. But once she’d gotten lost among the trees and brambles, the All Demon spoke, his voice almost a relief in the deathly silence.
[B Can you hear that river?]
There was no loud. The river was left far behind her and it was too dangerous to go back with the soldier’s looking for her.
Keep going. The spell wasn't started so that circle can be recreated.]
She could suddenly picture the spell pages in her head and all of the instructions like she’d memorized it. She couldn't go back for Joseph so this would have to do.
Philip catiously looked at the distracted creature. Slowly he got on his knees and hands knowing that it would probably leave to find Joseph. The former servant was sure that Joseph could not have gone very far and it was easy to find him. So Philip slowly reached for another dagger which was his very last one and silently rose it up before leaping at the black thing. Last time dagger didn't work on his body but he had no other choice. But before he could even get the chance to land the weapon on the Summon, he felt something wet and thick wrapping around them both and raising them up. Gasping for air in that crushing grip, he saw that a huge ivy had hunted them. Luckily he still had his dagger in hand but he couldn't move his limbs. Soon small green fairies crawled up the ivy and reached his ears, singing lullabies. His struggles started dying and he found himself lost in illusion as the ivy pressed its thorns against his body to feed from his flesh.
The blur swirled and twisted and whispers turned into giggles. Hands caught him and the forest maidens restricted his movements, caressing him but not in a soothing way only to feed from his energy as they tried to make him lay down and surrender himself. They picked on his bandages, laughing at his pathetic wounds and feeding on his remained stamina by making skin contact.
It looked too hopeless when the ground started heating up. The maidens were at first ignoring the atmosphere change but when something glowed so bright in a corner, they hissed and covered their eyes. Soon they freaked out and retreated, leaving Joseph.
"Mister...?" A young voice whispered worriedly and Juno showed up with her glowing ring in her hand. The little girl approached Joseph, finding him familiar but not remembering he was the one who saved her from that soldier back in Deloriak. She looked at his ripped bandages. "Mr.Dealer....Come out. They are gone. This mister needs help." She turned to a shivering bush.
"Finally..." Dealer sighed in relief and came out of his hide spot as dusting off himself. "Well. You are lucky this little one has a priest ring somehow. Goodbye~" He simply turned away to leave but Juno stayed which made him pause and look back at her in annoyance but he couldn't go alone since only the ring had kept them alive in forest and he couldn't touch the pure thing with his own sinful hand so he kind of needed Juno.
Juno observed Joseph's stitches."Are you okay?"
Artemis was a bit surprised the chains didn't have the same effect on her but she guessed it had something to do with Karim but she didn't think much about it and rode as fast as she could through the trees aimlessly. She glanced back and growled lowly seeing the soldiers after her. When would they give up? She wondered. Something passed inches away from her head and Artemis dodged, not getting a chance to see whtvit was but it was too huge to be an arrow. Maybe a kind of Bird? The Ba'al was already lost among the fake and real trees.
Enoch gasped when he saw Ryuu on the ground. His Ryuu was hurt. That was not good. The Creep jumped off his steed and ran to the fallen man. He shook the Summoner quite wildly in an exaggerated panic." RYU!" He whined. Enoch was too distracted to notice Bird diving down right for Ryuu. Her claws snatched Ryuu's feet and the monster quickly slammed him against a tree before letting go. Her eyes were set on him, ready to hunt.
The Summon was right on their heels and it bared sharp long fangs when Philip turned and threw one of the dagger’s at it. The dagger cut through it’s cloak like smoke and the thing’s red eyes narrowed giving chase after Philip. The trees then began to blur in front of him and before he could figure out what was going on the Summon tackled him, knocking them both onto the ground and it landed on top, pinning the former servant with an angry noise before it blinked and looked at Philip. He wasn’t the right one that the Summon should be chasing. It then looked up and leapt back, glancing back in the direction it had chased Philip from and the trees were no longer blurring. The ground beneath them was soft since they were near the swamps now and something else caught the Summon’s attention before it could go back to hunt down Joseph.
The former Prince froze when he heard Ximena and he didn’t realize at first that it wasn’t her. But when she tried to lead him back the way he’d come he quickly tried to grab her arm and pull her back, shaking his head. That’s when he noticed it, The illusion had the tattoos on her arms instead of the tight wrappings she always wore. And her arm itself, it didn’t feel like skin, it felt like a sleeve, like something was dressed up in her form. He let go of her and quickly stepped back and that’s when he heard the whispering voices again. This freaked him out and he continued to back up as her figure began to blur, like he couldn’t get his eyes to focus on her, or what looked like her.
Ryuu didn’t give Enoch another order, he looked back towards where the summoner’s circle had disappeared and that's when he noticed the markings in the soft dirt. Had Joseph been trying too…? He brushed the idea off and the two simply turned back to find the rest of the patrol, which didn’t take very long. The shouting of the soldier’s drew them to where Artemis was and slowing his steed once they could see her, Ryuu made a motion for Enoch to wait as he used his own demon chain’s and ensnared Artemis fast enough to yank her back from the soldier that she’d been attacking.
The other soldiers seem to relax but that’s when Ryuu noticed that Artemis wasn’t weakened by the chains, she just seemed more enraged and she gripped the chains in both hands. She reached up then lashed down, yanking back as hard as she could and that was enough to drag Ryuu off of his steed, breaking his concentration as he hit the ground and making the chain vanish. This gave Artemis the chance to rush over and before she could be stopped, she’d leapt onto his abandoned steed and turned tail taking off back through the trees. Quickly the uninjured soldiers were after her but she now had a better chance of getting away without injury.
Far from the dangers and inconveniences of the Light Nation, letters were being sent out. Letters to friends and strangers of the surrounding smaller territories. Sorit had given his opinion but it seemed more that the risk was worth taking rather than letting Deloriak continue to suffer. The werewolf still didn’t know what Theodore could be planning but the most he could do was make sure that he didn’t get into Dosia’s head and try to manipulate her since he and Romeo were the closest thing to advisers that she had left.
Philip blinked when the weight on him was suddenly gone but he didn't waste time and quickly sat up to land a hard smack against the Creep's neck. After knocking Enoch out, Philip looked up at Joseph and his stern gaze softened. His mouth opened to say something but didn't got the chance as Joseph tugged on his arm and pulled him along. He had received some cuts from Enoch but still could run yet Philip wasn't thinking the same about Joseph. His stitches could open again.
Their free running lasted mere seconds when they met Ryuu. Philip gritted his teeth nervously seeing that the symbols were already drawn. The golden arrow was pointed towards them and Joseph pushed him away just in time. Adrenaline was being pumped through his veins as he and the former prince ran away from whatever that was being summoned. Philip only glanced once to see someone pitch black on their tail. This encouraged him to speed up. He reached towards Joseph and grabbed his arm. "Jo..Joseph!" Philip shouted at his friend while running. "We have to split up! I will distract this thing! You go as fast as you can!" He pushed him away from him and pulled out one knife, throwing it at the Summoned creature to make it chase him before taking off to an opposite direction.
When Joseph went to another way, a familiar voice called him. "Joseph? Over here!"" Ximena was standing there among bushes with widened eyes. "Hurry up! Here!" The illusion gestured him to follow her. She wanted to lure him towards the swamp.
Enoch slowly got on his feet and stumbled a bit before getting a stable vision. "Ryuuuu...There must be another one too...has she ran?" He was bleeding but it wasn't sever. He was a bit annoyed he didn't get to have Joseph again. The man mounted on his steed and rode towards Ryuu for any other orders.
Artemis ducked her head and the arrow passed inches away. She looked back and cursed the riders getting closer and closer. Well, She had to do it the blood way. Again she jumped up and grabbed a branch. The demon pulled her body up and did a flip towards the rider which was the closest. She slammed her body against his, trying to throw him off the steed. It didn't work and they wrestled on the restless horse. Artemis rose up her claw and dig it into the horse's neck. The horse screamed and fell over, dragging down its rider. Artemis jumped down and snatched the unconscious soldier's bow and swung it at another rider who was about to cut her down with his sword. Their weapons clashed to each other and of course the bow started cracking. Artemis reached forward and grabbed the blade, growling when it cut through her palm but managed to pull the soldier down and then dug her bloody claw in his back.
Joseph turned sharply when he heard the hysterical laughter and he turned sharply, seeing Enoch prowling towards him with his sharp dagger. This made him promptly shut the book and scramble up, stepping back as the spy swung at him and the tip of the dagger tore a bit of the bandaging near his left side. His hands gripped at the wrapping to make sure he wasn’t bleeding and he continued to back up till someone tackled Enoch with their own dagger swinging. Philip. Joseph felt relieved for a moment before his relief washed away with clarity. If Enoch was here then that meant reinforcements weren’t far behind. He had an idea, a bad idea but it would give them both time to run and hopefully meet back up with Artemis. She was the strongest out of all of them right now and finding her would give them a better chance of escaping alive.
Instead of stepping back again, Joseph rushed over and pounced on the two, using his momentum rather than his strength to shove Enoch down and give Philip the opening he needed to knock the spy out. Before Philip could make sure Joseph was alright, or scold him for letting Artemis drag him out here, the former prince tugged on his friend’s arm and he motioned for them to go. They needed to get out of here now. When they both turned to run, Joseph froze at who he saw at the edge of his clearing. Ryuu.
He spotted Philip dash out into the clearing as he rode closer and he quickly dismounted hurrying out to the river bank. Already symbols were being drawn in the air and he pointed the golden arrow towards them, a summoner’s circle appearing at their feet. Joseph unfroze at this and he quickly pushed Philip aside, both of them bolting towards the tree line but Ryuu didn’t give chase. His summon pulled itself out of the circle and stood up on two legs, almost looking like a man except for for the fact that its skin was black as night and the ragged cloak around it only revealed it’s red eyes.
“Capture them and bring them back alive.” He ordered, watching the Summon nod slowly before dashing off in the direction after Philip and Joseph. Ryuu then walked over to Enoch and tried to wake him, shaking the younger man a bit and repeating his name and when that didn’t work, he walked to the river and got some of the cold water. Splashing it on Enoch roused him and Ryuu knelt as his spy sat up groaning and holding his head. “Are you alright? Can you stand?” The Summoner made sure Enoch was still able to continue before standing up himself and walking back towards his mount. Joseph and Philip wouldn’t get far with the illusions in the forest but he hoped his summon got to them first before they fell into one of the fairies traps.
Artemis was not far from the place she left Joseph when her sharp ears picked the faint whistle. She immediately recognized it. "Dammit. He is in trouble already?" The demon quickly changed her direction towards the river bank. Strangely, She felt more nervous than she should be. Days ago she would do anything to go back home but now she didn't want to sacrifice Joseph for it. Sure she somehow kidnapped him but still a part of her wanted him safe. Maybe it was the little Ba'al had never seen such innocence before. It was ironic he was Eric's brother. Artemis was a demon and was fine with Eric's hated side but Joseph was the total opposite and confused her. Besides, Eric cared for him. So Joseph had to be important. Whatever the brotherhood bond was, Artemis didn't want to ruin it.
Enoch looked pretty relaxed at the whispers and illusions. As long as he was with Ryuu, he was somehow more stable. His twisted mind didn't comprehend fear like others. Whether Ryuu goes, he follows. The Creep was curious about the whistle he heard. He didn't think it was some kind of a bird so when Ryuu found him nearby and silently ordered him to search around the river, he grinned and eagerly rode towards the river bank.
Enoch found blood stains on the grasses. He was close. He licked his lips, feeling the bloodlust within rising. He pulled out his dagger and moved forward through the bushes. He saw the treeline ending and lowered himself, hearing a faint sound of page flip. Enoch shifted his fingers around the dagger' s handle. Slowly he rose up his head and spotted Joseph. Oh! Those lovely green eyes were all his. He started a silent chuckle which soon turned into a hysteric one as he calmly walked out of his hiding spot and revealed himself.
"Not good at hide and seek...are you?" Enoch taunted the former prince and licked the edge of his blade. "Look at all those bandages..." He started approaching Joseph. "They are not red enough." The Creep rose up his dagger and swung it at the poor man. "Don't worry...I just want your eyes!" He rose up the weapon once more but it never landed when his body was slammed down from behind. "Ohhh...another guest?!" Enoch laughed and rose up his hand to use the chains. But it was mercilessly stabbed through with a knife.
Philip was done with this shit. Enoch growled and rolled, pinning Philip down but Philip still had his knife, stabbing anywhere he could. Enoch returned the favour and used his dagger. But there was one difference...Enoch was doing it for fun but Philip was now like a wild guard dog.
Artemis was hiding up in the trees, seeing the elven soldiers searching around. The demon gritted her teeth and hoped Joseph was okay. She climbed on a branch to go higher but it earned her a crack in one weak branch and the elves quickly looked up with their sharp eyes. They started yelling once they saw her and the poor demon hissed and dodged from an arrow, jumping on other trees.
Joseph sat when Artemis pushed on his shoulders and he looked up at her, his expression still full of sorrow and hopelessness. He nodded slightly when Artemis asked if he could whistle and he looked down slightly when she warned him not to betray her. He was sure she knew he knew what the spell really did, but even now he didn't know what else to do other than comply. Opening the book, he shakily began to read, noticing Artemis leaving the river bank. That didn’t make him feel any better and flipping to the page with the spell, Joseph took in a deep breath and he began to set up the symbols that the spell depicted. It took what felt like hours, but was probably only a few minutes and when he was done he went back to the book.
He hesitated before reading past the spell and his eyes widened when he saw there were substitutions for the three items that were needed for the spell. With this knowledge he looked around trying to see if Artemis was nearby. She was nowhere in sight and he gave a sharp loud whistle to no avail. She’d left to probably go back to the capital to find the items for the spell and left him out there. Joseph's stubbornness began to show through with his frustration for being left alone and injured and He flipped through the book again, finding one other spell which was the one that Eric had performed many, many years ago.
Ryuu’s group had left the castle and quickly made their way to the forest, unaware that they were being followed. Riding into the tree line, The Summoner turned back to his patrol and narrowed his icy blue eyes.
“Find them and bring them back alive.” He ordered and broke away from the group, racing off of the road and into the trees. Immediately he found several Illusions but with how long he’d lived in the Light Nation He knew now how to spot the Illusions. He could also hear the whispering voices of the fairies and he grimmest, tracing symbols along his horse’s reins. A sharp sudden sound quickly caught his attention and he looked towards the direction it had come from. He could faintly hear the sound of running water before a shout from one of his men caught his attention and he made his way back towards them. Two of the soldiers had found a little halfling, fainted with her bear dog laying near her, a soft whining coming from it. She was bleeding from her fall, having hit the side of her head against some rocks where she’d fallen.
“She’s still alive,” One of the soldiers reported, kneeling next to her and Ryuu nodded slightly.
“Take her back to the city and keep her there till she’s wakes up. When she’s coherent, try to find out who she is and what she was doing out here.” The soldier nodded and two of them headed back with the little halfling. That brought his patrol down to five. Glancing around, He spotted Enoch nearby and he flicked his steed’s reins, riding over to him and silently motioning for him to head in the direction of the river. He hadn’t forgotten about that sound he’d heard, like a whistle or an animal’s scream. He turned his mount and began circling around in that direction, slowing his pace so he would have a better chance of sneaking up on whatever or whoever was there.
Artemis walked faster as she felt invisible eyes watching them. She too had no idea how to survive but she didn't think much about that and was determined to finish her deal with Karim and get rid of his demands. She stopped when they reached the clearing and looked around carefully before making Joseph sit down by pressing dowb on his shoulder. "Alright. We don't have time to waste. Hurry up and draw the circle and prepare it so the moment I gathered its needed items it would be activated." She gestured at the boom which was still in his hands. "Also, there are other spells in it. See of you can make a kind of shield for yourself first. I have to look out for possible soldiers after us." She knelt down and put her hands on his shoulders, looking serious in his eyes. "Don't even think of betraying me. It is the only way to save hour friends and Eric...and yourself. Else, they will definitely kill us. I'm going now. If anything happens, call me...Can you whistle? Then whistle and I will come asap." She gave him a pat on shoulders and stood up, walking away out of the clearing and into the trees to find the source of her uneasiness. Also, she needed Eric's blood, A pure object and a particular stone. This meant she had to go back to castle...maybe sneak in? But not for now.
Ximena's eyes widened slightly when she felt Eric kiss back. She wasn't really expecting it but wasn't bothered by it of course She actually appreciated him for respecting her feelings and returning even though he had just rejected her. Ximena yet didn't smile when he looked at her. She was way too depressed with the thoughtnof being with him for the last time. Maybe it was better if she died from the illness. She let her hands remained in his and kept the silence, Also looking down with regrets and sorrows. She prayed internally for some miracle to happen.
Philip's concern was obviously only Joseph. He heard from some soldiers Ryuu was being sent to hunt down Artemis and probably Joseph too since Philip was sure Artemis took him. But the loyal servant was absolutely not going to let that happen. He didn't care to the Ba'al at all but if that Summoner dared to lay a finger on his prince, he would make sure to make him regret it; Even if Ryuu was much more stronger than him, Philip was not afraid to throw his life away for his dearest friend. Of course he couldn't ask them for a horse or anything since he was not trusted for good reasons. Philip didn't waste any time and left the castle, not daring for Ximena. She was free to go and Ryuu was no more after her so everything was fine for her. He didn't have any money on himself but was confident he could steal a horse in city since he was good at bribing the horses to follow him without making a fuss. A weapon...no he needed more than one weapon. He expected serious fights and decided to murder any soldier looking for Joseph. He had never been an assassin but sometimes a servant should kill more than a soldier would.
Luckily, one ignorant man half left his horse unguarded while he was talking to a young lady who sold bread. The steed was soon stolen by Philip and he simply waited in an alley to spy on Ryuu when they left the castle to follow them with a safe distance. They were his worry so he preferred to follow them instead of searching for Joseph himself.
Joseph was shaking as Artemis turned her annoyance back on him and stood up, muttering that they should leave. He flinched as she grabbed him by his hand and pulled him up to his feet, making him stand. His balance was still off and he stumbled a little but he managed to keep walking as Artemis guided them deeper into the woods. He heard the whispers and calling sounds. The soft voices of the fairies, he didn’t see any of them but he knew they were watching.
He then felt something cold sweep past him and he shuddered, glancing at Artemis. She also looked uneasy and that made him even more nervous. He then looked forwards to where they were going. The trees were beginning to thin out but they weren't at the edge of the forest or a road, they were on a wide river bank with the running water flowing slowly in the lazy current. This was a big enough area for them to perform the spell to bring The All Demon back.
In spite of everything, everything that Eric had said and that he’d done, when Ximena kissed him, he kissed her back. It was one of the most human things he had done since this entire mess had started, but… He broke their kiss slowly, leaning back enough so that he could look at Ximena’s face. He didn’t know what he was doing anymore. He bowed his head, lowering his gaze to their hands and he remained quiet, not saying anything.
Ryuu had a patrol waiting by dawn. Enoch and two other spies were with him along with half of an elven patrol that knew the forests around the city very well. A few of the city guards had reported that Artemis and Joseph had fled south eastwards, into the forest towards a slow running channel. At this time of year the water would be low but Ryuu was thinking that they’d be lucky to even make it to the river alive.
During his first journey through the Light Nation, he barely survived crossing through the forests. Back then he had been weak and desperate with only Enoch traveling with him. Both had nearly died due to the illusions in the forest before they were found by a patrol and brought back to the city. Back then he was a simple stranger, now The Summoner was making a place for himself and he planned on carving his keep in stone.
“... Rrrr…” Sorit didn’t stop when he opened the door and found N.V there, having obviously been listening in. He was still upset and Negomin’s last remark only added to that. He stepped past N.V without a word and stalked away from them. Negomin was right, this wasn’t his territory. He could try and try all he liked to settle and feel at ease in the castle but he was on foreign terrain, making his instincts scream at him to turn and run back to his familiar hunting grounds, back to his old home and his pack. But he couldn’t just leave, not like that. It would prove the dragon right that he was irresponsible and unreliable.
Artemis felt a shiver running down her spine when he threatened her. He was a lot stronger than what she thought. What did he do anyway? She blinked several times, the darkness disappearing and being replaced by blurry sight of Joseph. That was a relief, she was cured. Artemis was not sure how but seemed like Karim was responsible for that. Normally she would have felt grateful but now she felt like she was a mere tool. Maybe it was time for her to stop but she also felt that it was too late for her. He could heal her blindness which meant he also could damage her. Artemis gritted her teeth, feeling trapped and seeing Joseph's face just made her more annoyed.
She didn't even hear the shriek...she didn't want to. Artemis was too distracted.
"What is with that face, cry baby?!" The Ba'al snapped at the poor prince and stood up a bit shakily then gripped on his hand once again. "Let's get moving." Artemis pulled on his hand and made him follow her as she walked through the enchanted forest.
As they went further, Artemis noticed something was off. Some trees...were slightly blurry and whenever she looked back, nothing was familiar to her. She pressed on Joseph's hand nervously but didn't stop walking.
Joseph started hearing 'pssts' and whistles. Some little tree fairies in green were jumping around on branches and waving at him with weird grins.
Ximena blinked with a bit of surprise when he held her hands and then pressed his forehead against hers. She held her breath and soon her cheeks blushed slightly. "...!" She could clearly feel and hear his breathing. They had never been this close before. Soon her breathing synced with his and she smiled quietly, feeling much more secure. The dancer closed her eyes too and tried to clear her mind from any stress. She just had to enjoy these moments while she could. Ximena thought of doing something bold. It was her last chance to do it, probably. Slowly she tilted her head and felt his breath on her lips as she leaned in closer. Her heart almost stopped when her lips softly touched his. It was not forceful or anything. It was very gentle and catious.
"Oh, Ryuuuu~ I love hunting down princes!" The Creep cheered and ran to his room to pick up his favourite weapons for this rare event. The dangerous expression of Ryuu only encouraged him more for his sick habits.
Negomin didn't look less angry as she watched the werewolf making his leave. She was more than eager to rip off the Dark creatures head but fought against it and just spat at Sorit with hatred. "I wish you ignorant Dark would have been extincted!" She turned her back to him and stared out of the window. Once Sorit opened the door, N.V stumbled forward. He stared up at the alpha and simply held up a rag. "I was cleaning the door."
“...!” Joseph flinched as Artemis squeezed his hand in her painfully tight grip, wailing for something to stop. He tried to yank his hand away from her but with her screaming and being blind, she ended up dragging him to the ground, the searing pain making it too hard to stand anymore. Her claws were digging into his hand and he felt like she was trying to crush it, making him gasp and squirm and continue to try and tug himself away.
Karim didn’t say anything while Artemis screamed and no matter where she moved to, the pain was still unbearable. Then, suddenly, the burning pain began to fade, leaving a dull aching in her wound. As the pain faded, her vision slowly came back and Karim hissed into her ears.
[b Now go and do not keep me waiting.]
His voice held such a threatening tone but his presence moved away. The forest around them was silent but it wasn’t for long. A shierk in the distance in the direction that Sheera had escaped too made Joseph jump and he returned the tight grip that Artemis had on his sore hand. He looked at her, knowing they had to leave and leave now. But where could they go? He was at a loss and the look he had was utter hopelessness. He looked like he was going to cry.
Eric didn’t reply when Ximena told him he was right that she couldn’t trust him. He glanced at her, seeing she was looking away and he shifted, pushing himself up so he could sit up straight and he reached over to her. “Hey,” He said in a soft voice giving her a genuine smile. “It’s going to be okay. Everything’s going to be alright.” He tugged on her arm a little, getting her to sit down on the bed next to him and he held her hands in his firmly, but not in an aggressive manner. “Thank you, Ximena. For staying by my side.” He whispered to her, leaning forwards and pressing his forehead against hers, eyes closed and his breathing slowed.
Ryuu’s gaze remained cold and dangerous and it didn’t lighten at all when he saw his faithful follower, Enoch. The spy’s face was still bruised and his nose twisted oddly after being broken but he did look better and had more energy now. The summoner’s expression didn’t change at Enoch’s suggestions for why he didn’t come to visit, but when he asked to join the hunt, Ryuu’s eyes darkened and he looked back at his spy.
“You may join me on the hunt, our queen wants the Ba’al back alive but Joseph… His bounty is alive, or dead.” Ryuu’s sympathy for Eric’s younger brother had run out as he jealously stewed about Ximena no longer trusting him. He was letting his bitterness show and he planned to take those feelings out during the hunt, hoping he might at least feel a little better once the executions were over.
Sorit found himself glaring at Negomin when she said she should be more welcomed than the Vampires and he let out a frustrated snarl. “I don’t need to stand here and… And take this!” He growled in an aggravated tone and he turned away from her, stalking towards the door of her room to leave. He didn’t like being criticized like this and the wolf wasn’t going to stand for it any longer.
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