Symphony sat on her bed, waiting for Melody to come. She stared at her sling bag which was on her lap. As she had decided to only bring two extra dresses and a few gels, the sling bag was all she needed. Her choice of attire on her first day of the journey was a pink sleeveless dress and a denim jacket. She wore a pair of white knee-high boots. She stood up and looked at her reflection in the mirror. Her stares locked onto her hair as it was long and she thought that it was time to cut it, maybe after the journey. She turned to around to see Melody, already standing by her door.
“I’m ready,” she announced, smiling.
Melody nodded. “Indeed you are…”
She escorted the Princess to the Audience Chamber where the Emperor and the Six God-Generals awaited them.
“Are you set to go, my dear?” Peony asked his daughter.
Symphony observed his expression closely. She looked up to him briefly and answered, “Yes, I am.”
Peony gave out a vague smile. The girl sighed as she went up to her Father’s seat. She hugged him for a few minutes. A solitary tear trickled down his cheek.
“I’ll be back. It’s not like I’m gone forever,” Symphony reassured him.
Wrapping his arms around her, “I know…but to me, it will be like forever waiting for you to come home,” the father replied.
Symphony sighed. Legretta coughed, glancing up at Largo. The man stood up straight and turned to the two. He took a deep breath.
“Shall we get going?” he asked.
“R-Right,” Symphony stammered.
She broke away from the hug, in a gentle manner, stood up and turned to face the six. All of them stared at her, waiting for her to say something. For a few minutes, silence filled the atmosphere. Symphony didn’t know what to say.
“I shall see to that you will be well taken care of?” Jade raised a brow at the Princess.
Symphony turned to her coach. Trembling nervously, she stammered, “Y-Yes…l-let’s get going…”
Then, she approached the Six God-Generals. Noticing a stare coming at her, she turned to Arietta and beamed happily. The girl replied by hiding her face behind her doll, giggling too, for the Princess was a bit shorter than her. She actually thought she was the shortest girl there was to ever be found, but no, Princess Symphony was the shortest of all. The Six God-Generals exited the palace and waited for the Princess.
“Master Jade, please don’t think of following me. I know you’re my trainer and all…but, please?” Symphony pled.
“I can’t promise you~” Jade hummed.
Symphony clenched her fist and looked straight into Jade’s eyes. The man was quite surprised that she was brave enough to do so. He let out a long sigh before nodding to her. The girl smiled. She excused herself to meet up with the God-Generals.
“All set to go, Your Highness?” Legretta asked.
“Yes, let’s go,” she replied.
They went to the bridge that leads to the exit of the capital. Some citizens greeted her and bid her goodbye. Some even insisted on giving her food supplies, but she refused to take it as she didn’t want to burden them all, including her escorts.
“Shall we rent some carriages?” Legretta suggested.
“I can ride my chair!” Dist announced proudly and rather selfishly.
Hugging her doll tighter, Arietta said, “I can ride my liger.”
“Liger? Oh, yeah…you can communicate with animals,” Symphony suddenly remembered.
All of them turned to her. She sweat dropped. Then, she stood and thought for awhile with her right hand holding her chin. The six waited patiently, though Sync and Dist seemed like they wanted to protest, more likely, Dist seemed like he would burst any seconds.
“Might I suggest that we should head to St Binah first?” Largo spoke.
Symphony looked up at him. “St Binah, the Citadel?”
“Yes, why not? It’ll be a good start,” Legretta agreed with Largo.
The others nodded. They waited for the Princess to reply. Symphony smiled and nodded rapidly as a sign she agreed. So, they rented two carriages- one was to be boarded by Largo, Legretta, Asch and one was to be boarded by Sync and Symphony. Sync protested and insisted that he rode with the two males. Symphony stared blankly at him as he poured all of his complains to Largo.
“You promise you’d make her stay away from me!” he reminded the Black Lion.
Largo sweat dropped. He smiled sheepishly at the masked boy. Sync crossed his arms in front of his chest, refused to give in. Symphony was confused of why he didn’t want to share the same carriage with her. Legretta, Asch and Largo discussed about the matter for a few seconds.
Dist was getting impatient. “Why don’t you just ride with the girl?”
A death glare shot at him and he knew who it was from, so he kept quite after that. In the end, Sync complied with Largo’s request. He just had to do it. Besides, he could make this as an excuse to not babysit her after that. He stared at Symphony who smiled to him. Grunting, he boarded the carriage in the front. Symphony trotted behind him.
“What’s wrong? Can’t you get in, Your Highness?” Asch asked when he noticed the Princess staring at the small stairs.
“Oh, I can. Thank you for asking,” the girl replied and took the first step.
Her second step reached halfway into the carriage, causing her to topple backward. She closed her eyes to meet the ground. Asch caught hold of her before she did. She thanked him.
He called out to Sync, “Can you help her in?”
Sync groaned and pulled Symphony’s wrist, hard. Symphony gulped. He closed the carriage door once they were both in. He went back to his seat after that, ignoring her. Symphony hesitantly sat beside him. She didn’t know whether he was eyeing her or not with his mask on. Sync, on the other hand was observing her small figure. She looked so fragile and vulnerable that he was confident anyone can take advantage of her. The carriage started to move and yet again, the girl almost stumbled as it bumped on the rocky road. She had not been out of the capital before, causing her to not use of the feeling of riding a carriage. Sync smirked at her state. She clawed the seat and tried her best to stay in place.
“You’re funny…” he muttered.
After almost two hours of journey, they arrived at St Binah. Symphony stepped out of the carriage. She thanked the two drivers and they left after that. She stepped into the town, widening her eyes at the view. After the front gate stood the square with a big round vase in the middle of it. On the left of the gate, there were some stalls and an inn. Going straight, a path to the residential area could be found. She ran around happily.
“What a weird Princess…” Dist stated.
“Maybe because she didn’t have the chance to see her country before…” Legretta replied, watching the Princess.
“So, are we just gonna stay here and wait?” Asch asked.
“No, let’s check in at the inn,” Largo answered, already walking up to the inn.
“Wait! Don’t leave me with her!” Sync called out to them when all the older God-Generals walked up to the inn.
“I’ll wait for her, Sync…” Arietta drawled.
Sync stared at the girl but as she did was hid her face behind her doll. He sighed as he was annoyed that Largo did not keep his promise. Symphony hopped up to them.
“Can I look around some more? They say that the view from the Soil Tree that stood at the far end of this small town is spectacular!” she said in a quick tone.
Her tone suggested that she was so excited that maybe, even if they beg for her to rest, she wouldn’t. Symphony waited for an answer. Sync and Arietta looked at each other. The Wild didn’t complain but Sync wanted to rest.
“If you have no complaint, go with her!” Sync half shouted to Arietta.
Both of the girls were stunned. They watched as Sync stomped to the inn. Symphony didn’t understand why he was angry, but she also didn’t have the heart to ask. She knew that it was common sense to be able to process how Sync felt.
“Arietta?” Symphony called, turning to her.
“Yes, Y-Your Highness?” the Wild looked at her.
“I think we should get to the inn…” the Princess muttered.
“If you say so…” the pink haired girl obeyed.
They approached the inn and entered. The innkeeper greeted them with a warm smile. He told Symphony that the others had told him to greet her with full of hospitality. He also knew that she was Peony’s daughter.
“Welcome! I’ve been expecting you, Your Highness!” he beamed happily.
“Thank you,” Symphony curtsied to him.
Arietta went up to Legretta who was sitting on her bed. She started discussing something with the Quick. Symphony stepped in and looked around. Dist was nowhere to be found. Asch noticed the girl looking around.
“He has something to deal with,” Asch explained, getting a nod from the girl.
Largo had decided how to divide the beds they had. “There are six beds. You kids can sleep on the right side of the room. We’ll sleep on the left side.”
“Wait! Wait! Can’t we divide it between male and female?” Sync protested.
Asch thought for a while and agreed. He said, “I guess…it's better that way.”
“If you two say so,” Largo sighed.
Sync chose the bed at the corner. Unfortunately, the bed opposite of his was Symphony’s. She was told to get the furthest bed from the entrance so that nothing bad will happen to her. Arietta took the bed between the Princess’ and Legretta’s. Asch took the bed in the middle, between Largo’s and Sync’s.
Legretta tucked Symphony in. She smiled to the girl. “I know it’s still early, but let’s just rest for today. We can go sightseeing tomorrow.”
Although she was reluctant, Symphony nodded. “Hmm…”
Sync heard rustling noise in the middle of the night. He didn’t bother to look for the source, but when Arietta gasped, he sat up straight in bed. He could vaguely see what Arietta was staring at, so he turned towards where she was staring. The Tempest widened his eyes at the empty bed in front of him.
“Where is she?” he half growled.
Arietta’s voice cracked. “I d-don’t know…”
“Let’s go find her,” he decided.
“Okay…” the Wild obeyed.
They crept out of the inn silently, not wanting to wake up the others. As they were searching for her….
“I wish to see this tree since I’ve heard of it!” Symphony exclaimed, staring up at the tree.
She was amazed at the height and the size of it. There was a ladder leading up. She made her way to the ladder and started to climb up. When she was halfway there, her hands suddenly slipped and she was falling.
“Aaaaaaaahhhhh!” the girl screamed with her eyes shut tight.
Surprisingly, she was caught by someone. He was wearing a bird-like mask. He had green hair and though his arms were slim, she knew they are strong. Wait, she knew this person.
“Can’t you wait till tomorrow?!” a familiar voice scolded her.
The boy groaned. “Who else would be crazy enough to come after you in the middle of the night?”
“Princess…I was so worried when I know you went missing,” Arietta whispered into the girl’s ear when she was released from Sync’s hold.
Symphony clutched the lower part of her dress, biting her lip. Looking down, she thanked them. “Thank you for coming…and I’m sorry…”
“If it weren’t for Van’s plan…” Sync mumbled.
“I think we should head back,” Arietta bravely interrupted him.
Sync nodded. They both looked at Symphony. The girl nodded too. She didn’t want to cause them anymore trouble. Once they were at the inn, Arietta stayed by the Princess’ bed until she was fast asleep. Then, she went to bed too, but before that, she turned her stare to Sync who was asleep in a sitting position. He wanted to make sure that Symphony would not sneak out again.
“Sync…I don’t think she would…” Arietta spoke up, after collecting all the courage she had.
“Yeah, I know,” Sync woke up, his gaze landed on Arietta and the girl panicked a bit, “I’m going to sleep now.”
“Hmm…good night…” the Wild mumbled.
The next morning, when the five woke up, Symphony was again, nowhere to be found in her bed. Sync and Arietta explained what had happened last night Largo and Legretta were really shocked. Asch knew it would happen, judging by how excited she was when they arrived. Largo, after thinking for a brief moment, made Sync and Arietta search for the Princess. He thought that it was the best solutions since he believed that both of them had the same mind as the girl. Thus, they would find her in a blink of an eye. Sync protested and half screamed at Largo as he forgot their agreement again.
“I didn’t remember making any agreement with you. Do you have proof?” he asked calmly.
“You’re lucky you’re a comrade,” Sync groaned.
They both exited the inn and went searching for Symphony. Before they could find her, Symphony herself made an appearance with a familiar teenage girl, Melody. Only that time, she was wearing a casual dress.
She bowed to the two and apologized. “Sorry to have made you worry. I found Her Highness at the bulletin board. So, I greeted her and asked her to join me for breakfast.”
Symphony nodded rapidly. “She lives around here.”
“That’s right. Care to join for breakfast? We were just about to go to my house,” Melody invited, smiling to them.
“I think we should tell the others first,” Arietta said in a whisper.
“Hmm? Guess so…” Sync agreed, biting his lower lip.
In a few minutes after telling the others and they approved, Sync as well as Arietta sat at the dining table in Melody’s house. She lived alone as her parents lived in the capital, or so she said. When asked why, she said she preferred to live in a remote area. Her house was that a size of a cottage. The first floor consists of a living room on the right and the kitchen along with the dining table on the left. Upstairs, there are three rooms, one for her, one is especially made for Symphony and on is for guests. The bathroom is connected to the bedroom.
“Dig in, don’t be shy,” said Melody after sitting with them.
Symphony smiled when she saw Arietta’s widening eyes. There were so many to eat – pancakes, red bean sauce, toasts, fried sausages, boiled eggs- and they even could choose their drink between hot milk and hot tea.
The girl eagerly took a piece of pancake for herself. She turned to the two young God-Generals. “Go on, eat. I help her cook you know.”
Melody nodded. She urged them in a friendly manner to eat as much as they could. In the middle of their breakfast, a knock on the door was heard. Symphony rushed to open it and found that it was Asch. She grinned to him as she let him in.
“Sorry to have worried you, Sir Asch,” Melody said, stood up and bowed to him.
“No need for manners, Melody. I heard from someone that Sync and Arietta followed the Princess into a house and here they are,” Asch replied.
“I’ll go send Legretta and Largo some breakfast! I want them to taste my cooking, too!” Symphony suddenly announced.
Standing up, Arietta spoke, “I’ll go with her.”
Symphony invited Asch to join Melody and Sync. After that, Arietta followed the girl as she hopped happily, exiting the house.
Melody gazed at the two male in front of her. “Now that we’re alone, let’s talk about her.”
“Actually, that is not my intention…” Asch said rather guiltily as that was not his purpose of coming here.
“I want to know!” Sync interrupted.
Melody closed her eyes and calmly breathed. “I can tell. People would want to know how a twelve-year-old girl can easily be created.”
“Will you tell a stranger like us?” Asch asked.
“For one of the coldest God-Generals, you do know some manners. Of course I will tell you. It’s better if you know since you’ll be stuck with her for awhile,” Melody chuckled.
“So, how was she created?” Sync urgently asked.
Melody took a sip of her tea. “Well…how should I start…?”
Sync took hold of his cup of milk and started drinking it bit by bit. Asch ate his first sausage and stared at Melody.
“She is actually…” Melody rolled her eyes. She felt a little guilty for telling someone else about this.
“She is an alternate replica of Emperor Peony himself. To alter it…all they need was a crystal which, I think, they got from Ortion Cave. If I’m not mistaken, the crystal they chose was the brightest one they could find…” she explained.
“In other words, she’s a replica too?” the two asked in disbelief.
“Yes…but, she didn’t know of this. Colonel Curtiss implanted memories of her father into her, and made her believe that her mother had died right after she was born. She’s so weak when she was created that Colonel feared that she might die. Truth is…” Melody hesitated.
Eager for an answer, Sync asked, “Truth is what?”
“I’m back~!” Symphony hummed as she walked in.
Arietta followed behind her. She rushed back to Melody. Sync stared at her.
“Where are you going after this?” Melody asked Symphony, rubbing her head.
“Cheagle Woods and then, Engeve,” Symphony replied, smiling happily.
“Let’s get going, we don’t want to keep the others waiting,” Sync spoke up, looking at Melody.
Melody smiled to him and nodded. “Right. Get going now…”
Symphony nodded and rushed outside, pulling Arietta with her. Asch followed suit. Sync was about to go when Melody stopped him. He turned back to her.
“Truth is…she has a half. You must be careful when interacting with her. Do not make her cry or Symph will…”
“Symph?” Sync was confused.
Hopping inside, she went up to Sync. “Sync, are you coming or not?”
Sync was startled. Staring at Melody and Symphony simultaneously, he scoffed “Yeah, yeah, let’s go…”
They strolled back to the inn as Symphony wanted to enjoy the view. They soon came to a halt when Symphony stopped by the bulletin board. She stared at it for awhile. Her eyes squinted and her face wrinkled up as if she was finding hardship in reading what was on the board. Sync and Arietta watched her. Soon, Legretta went beside the girl and helped her with whatever she was reading. Largo went up to the other three God-Generals.
“Did you get new information?” Largo asked.
“Yes…she is an alternate replica of Peony. She also has a half which I don’t what it means…” Asch replied, watching the girl who was laughing with Legretta.
Largo and Asch turned to the girl too. They all wondered what ‘a half’ meant.
After a few minutes entertaining her, Legretta asked, “Shall we get moving, Princess?”
Symphony nodded. “I guess. It’s almost noon and we have to make it to Engeve before nighttime.”
The others agreed.
“Dist will meet us there,” Asch said to the others.
All of them nodded. Legretta held Symphony’s hand as they walked out to the entrance of St Binah. Symphony turned around and bid farewell to the town.
“I will come again someday!” she announced determinedly.
They started to follow the path before heading north of Engeve. Meanwhile, Melody was reminiscing about something.
“Will she live?” she asked Jade.
“I think so…but we have to find a way to make her live longer,” Jade explained, nudging his spectacles.
“Melody!!!” a squeaky voice called.
Symphony who seemed to be toddling in a quick manner approached Melody. The maid smiled to her. Peony came in after that. He picked his daughter up. She was quite small for a twelve-year-old.
“What are you two talking about?” he asked.
Melody turned to Jade who coughed before answering, “Nothing…we were discussing about the future…”
“Very funny, Jade…”
“Master Jade ish…sho funny…” the girl struggled to forge a sentence.
“Nice one, Symphony!” Peony kissed his daughter’s cheek.
He put her down. The girl toddled out of the study room and called for another maid to play with her. Peony stared sternly at the two. Jade acted calm but Melody made a serious face.
“Make sure she does not know of her origin…” Peony reminded them.
“Yes,” the two replied.
Melody nudged Jade arm with her elbow. The Colonel coughed again, trying to find the right words to tell the Emperor. Peony waited as he knew they had something to say but they were hesitating and so he knew, it was something hard to be accepted.
“It’s about your daughter…” Jade started as Melody nodded.
Peony was not hesitated to ask, “What about her?”
He waited for an answer. Jade and Melody stalled again by looking at each other, talking in sign language. Peony grew impatient.
“Well?” he asked.
Jade handed him a piece of paper showing a bar chart of sort which shown a drop in statistic of something. He stared at the paper, confused as he tried to decipher what they wanted to tell him.
“That’s the rate of her heartbeat. It’s really weak,” Melody started.
“What?! No way! You guaranteed she’d live a long life!” Peony half shouted, clenching the paper on his hand.
“Yes, but apparently, I miscalculated,” Jade replied calmly.
“Find a way to make her live long! You can do that, can’t you?” Peony half begged.
“I’ll try…” the Colonel replied.
Melody looked at him sadly. Is there really a way? She waited for the Emperor to leave before asking.
Jade starred into space. “There is… Let us make a trip to Ortion Cave.”
“If you say so…” Melody obeyed.
Melody sighed. She started to wash the dishes.
“You didn’t say you were coming…” she spoke calmly.
“I just want to make sure she was okay. Having Symph is quite dangerous,” a familiar voice explained, going down the stairs.
“Still, that doesn’t mean you should barge in like that. I know we’re like family since my parents entrusted me to you, but still…” Melody muttered.
“Sorry, about that. Anyway, did you tell them?” a familiar brunette asked.
“Yes, I did tell two of them. It’s their choice whether to tell the others or not. It looked as if it was their main intention, since one of them seemed to demand me to tell him…”
Jade chuckled and sat at the dining table. “It’s hard to see a God-General with a high interest like that, except for Dist of course.”
Melody turned around and faced him. She felt guilty as she didn’t plan on this. Plus, she didn’t even know that Jade was going to pay a visit. She complied with it. He came in early in the morning and barged into her house, telling her what she should do. She obeyed and did as told. Everything was planned by Jade as he wanted to know the Six God-Generals true intention but it was hard to see through them. He was in doubt whether he would be able to see it or not.
“You did well…in acting…” he teased.
“Shut up! I did because you asked me to,” Melody complained, heading upstairs.
Jade chuckled at his beloved so-called sister. Her parents entrusted her to him as he was one of their acquaintances and was the most trusted one. He agreed and made her a soldier who was supposed to work under him and she did. She even helped him with scientific experiments and chasing bandits. When Peony asked for her to be Symphony’s private maid, she agreed and begged for Jade’s agreement too. Jade agreed because she wasn’t going far at all. Besides, she would be staying in the capital at all times once she became a maid.
Melody was one of the fewest to know about Symphony’s real past. Peony knew about Symph but do not know how to trigger her to come out. Only Melody and Jade knew that as they were the ones who created Symphony in the first place, under orders from Emperor Peony. With little data they had, they tried their best and Symphony was the result.