The Black Lion announced, trying to be a little cheerful, "Here we are! The Cheagle Woods!”
He turned to the Princess who took no seconds to stop and started eyeing the place with wide eyes. The forest is thick but of course, there is a path for walking. The tree stands tall from the grounds, the bushes are in dark green colors, signing that they are all healthy. The birds were chirping as if welcoming her to the forest. She looked around excitedly; observing the bugs on the leaves, stretching her neck high as she wanted to see what was on top the trees. She wished she was taller. She breathed in the fresh air. Four of the five God-Generals smiled at her while the last one scoffed. He guessed that she had never seen vast greens before.
“We’ve got company,” Asch warned them.
Symphony turned to them with a confused stare. “Huh?”
A linail crept behind her. Legretta shot it immediately and Largo rushed to get the girl. Symphony turned around and saw the dead snail. She backed away into Largo’s arms. She had never faced such danger before even though she trained for one.
“We can’t rest yet,” the Bloody warned them again, sensing some more coming.
A pack of wolves came out of their hiding spots. All of the God-Generals got into position to fight them. The six wolves looked hungrily at them. Symphony stayed closed to Largo as she was really frightened that time. Since Largo uses a scythe, he could slash the wolves when they are in his scythe’s range. So, he waited for them to approach Symphony and him. Legretta shot one of them on the head while Arietta casted her arte, Negative Gate, onto the next. Sync hit one with his Turbulence. Asch slashed the other two into half with his sword.
“Do you want me to fight them too?” a voice inside Symphony asked.
“No…they can win this…” she whispered as low as she could so that Largo didn’t hear her.
The last wolf jumped at them, making the Princess gasp. Largo slashed it with his scythe. All of them sighed.
“That was easy…” Sync complained, getting fired up, “I’d want a stronger monster next time!”
Largo coughed, signing the boy to stop. “Don’t get cocky, Sync. We are not here to look for troubles. We are here to escort the Princess around.”
“I know, I know…hmph!” Sync crossed his arms in front of him.
“Thank you for protecting me, Largo…and everyone else,” the Princess said, turning to each of the God-Generals.
“It’s all in a day’s work,” Largo replied formally.
Symphony stood back up on her feet as just now, she was leaning onto the Black Lion. She looked at the six dead wolves.
“Do you wish to go further?” Legretta asked.
“They say the sacred beasts of the Order of Lorelei live here. I want to see them…and…” she hesitated.
Asch was the first one to be curios of it. “And?”
Symphony brought her hands together and her cheeks reddened. “I…umm…want to see…the river?”
“You’ve never seen a river before?” Sync exclaimed in disbelief.
Symphony nodded slowly, staring at the ground. She was really embarrassed to have asked that but she had no choice as it was one of her dreams. She waited for their answers.
The Black Lion sighed and turned to her. “Alright…we’ll go as far as that.”
So, off they went, further and deeper into the Cheagle Woods. Soon, they came to a large tree with a hole that looked like a door. It was small but fit for a human to go in. The tree was surrounded by a river of sort. Symphony smiled happily as she got to see the cheagles’ nest and to witness a river. She sat by the river, on the path to the small entrance. She played with the water. Since it was still daylight, the water was icy cold.
“I guess we don’t have to go further,” Asch sighed, relieved.
Symphony jumped onto a small rock in front of her. Apparently, the rock was slippery and the girl lost her balance and fell into river. Being the kind of girl that didn’t know how to swim, she struggled in the water. The God-Generals panicked. Asch quickly took off his robe and undershirt and rushed to help her. When they were back with the others, Symphony was already sobbing.
“You’re going to catch a cold at this rate,” Legretta was worried.
“Umm…” Arietta spoke up, approaching the two female, “She asked me to hold her bag for her. I think…there are some dry clothes in here…?”
Arietta spoke almost in a whisper and it took Legretta a few seconds before she could register what she was saying. She turned to the Princess and the girl nodded to Arietta’s statement. When Legretta was busy rummaging the Princess’ sling bag, a couple of cheagles came out of their nest. All of them were amazed to see the two cheagles. They ignored the others and hopped up to the crying girl. Symphony stared at them with big teary eyes. They took her hand and pulled her with them.
Since everyone was in awe at the sight, Sync spoke up. “Should we just wait here?”
Legretta snapped from her bewilderment. “I’ll go and give her a new set of clothes to wear.”
Inside, Symphony was amazed to see such a sight. Cheagles were staring at her from every angle. There was one particular Cheagle that stood out in the crowd, looking old and was holding a ring-like thing. Symphony watched as the Cheagle walked up to her.
“I see you are the one who was causing all the noise outside…” it said.
“My apology, I didn’t realize that I was disturbing you,” Symphony’s voice changed.
“Hmm? Might you be new to this place?” it asked.
“Indeed, I am. I am here to explore, but I mean no harm to any of you,” Symph replied, kneeling down to show respect.
“That is why you are here. I am the Cheagle Elder. I speak human language because this ring that Yulia gave as a sign of our pact,” the Cheagle Elder explained.
Symph’s gaze at the ring and replied, “I see…”
“Are of business to us?” the Elder asked.
“No…but, if I may, may I change my clothes here? I’m afraid I might catch a cold…” she requested.
“Yes, but please be quick.”
Symph nodded, got up and took the sling bag from Legretta. The Quick exited to wait for her with the others. The cheagles watched as Symph took all of her outer attire off. Then, she took a new dress out from her bag and put it on. Once she was down, she squatted down at the cheagles which were watching her.
“May I have some big leaves?” she asked with a smile.
The elder translated it for her. Without hesitation, the cheagles rushed to get her some. Symph played with her hair while waiting – she was braiding it. Then, she wrapped her wet clothes with the leaves and put it inside her sling bag.
Symph smiled again at the cheagles and turned to the Elder. “I thank you deeply. Is there anything I can help you with in return?”
“One of our friends got lost in Mt Roneal. If you happen to find her, please send her back,” the Elder requested.
“How did she… if I may know…” Symph asked curiously.
“She followed a human’s transportation I think…”
“I will try to find her. Thank you again,” Symph replied before leaving.
Her eyes faded into calm aqua and Symphony was back.
“Thank you, Symph. If it was me, I would have panicked just now…” Symphony whispered.
When she exited the nest, all eyes were on her. She smiled to them. Her new change of clothes was a long green dress. The right sleeve was connected to the dress but the left sleeve was a detached sleeve. Her hair was braided on each side. Arietta hid her face behind her doll, wishing she had that type of dress too. Legretta smiled softly to the girl and nodded. Largo and Asch kept on staring at her. Sync didn’t care even one bit after observing her dress.
“Let’s get going to Engeve. It’s almost night time,” Largo announced.
“Okay,” Symphony nodded.
They made their way to the entrance. However, before they could reach it, they were surrounded by three ligars and a wood golem. Symphony went behind Legretta. She was aware that monsters are stronger during the night and also, much faster.
“Alright! Some more actions!” Sync was all fired up.
He charged at the golem.
“Arietta, watch Sync’s back. There’s no telling what he’d do,” Asch told the pink haired.
“Okay…” she obeyed and started to cast her dark arte.
Legretta took one ligar down with her Éclair de Larmes and Largo took one down with his scythe. The last one was slain by Asch before it could even make an attempt to escape. Sync was busy with the golem.
“Should we help him?” Legretta asked.
“We’ll help. Why don’t you tend to the Princess? Come on, Asch,” Largo replied and called for Asch.
Symphony watched Sync getting up after a hit from the golem. The golem was distracted by Arietta’s Pow Hammer. Sync landed a kick on its abdomen and it screamed in agony. It tried to hit Sync but the boy was faster. Unfortunately for him, he dodged at the wrong angle and got hit by another wood golem which appeared out of nowhere. Asch casted fire onto the first golem and it burnt to death. Arietta casted her Negative Gate onto the second one without a minute to spare. Adding a slash from Largo’s scythe, the golem was cut in two. Sync pouted a bit as he didn’t get to finish his foe.
Largo sighed. “Sync, please remember our real mission of coming here…” he muttered.
Sync scoffed again. He glanced up at the girl who was clinging onto Legretta. He hated how vulnerable and easily scared she was. Symphony sensed the brief stare and immediately turned to Sync. She could guess that he was glaring at her.
“Legretta,” she started, pulling Legretta’s skirt to attract her attention, “Let’s get going…I’m s-scared…”
“As you wish, Your Highness,” Legretta obliged.
They rushed out of the Cheagle Woods and headed south. They avoid the monster as much as they could since the Princess was scared. They thought that she might even scream if they didn’t avoid the monsters.
“Here we are, Engeve.” Largo announced.
Dist came, popping his head in front of them. They didn’t bother to notice. Symphony blinked at him a few time.
“I booked the inn for all of you~ You should be thankful~” he hummed, twirling in his chair.
“Come to think of it, I am a bit tired…” Symphony mumbled, rubbing her eyes.
It was supposedly her bedtime although she tends to wake up in the middle of the night.
“Then, sightseeing can wait tomorrow. I think we should get her to bed,” Asch suggested.
“I guess so…” Legretta agreed, picking the girl up.
“She doesn’t even have the excitement yet,” Largo nodded in agreement too.
“I guess we could all rest them,” Sync gave in.
He was not tired yet but he had to comply with it. They walked up to the inn, ignoring the pouting Dist. Dist followed after them either way.
“Welcome, Your Highness! I heard you were coming!” the innkeeper said.
“Thank you…” she replied sleepily.
The innkeeper extended his right hand to the right to show where they should be going. “Please, right this way.”
There were only three beds. In the middle of the room was a table with two chairs. Dist pouted again as he didn’t have a bed. Largo had decided to give the beds to the females, especially the Princess. Legretta tucked her in the bed in the middle. She took the bed on the left and Arietta took the bed on the right. Largo decided to sleep near the entrance, on the floor. Sync took a chair and slept there to. Asch slept on the chair at the table and Dist complied with sleeping on his own chair.
As usual, Symphony woke up in the middle of the night but she didn’t exit the inn. She sat up on bed and stayed there.
“Something the matter?” her conscience asked.
“No…nothing…” she whispered.
“I miss training…when can I train again?”
Symphony sighed. “I can’t say for sure…I need to fulfill father’s wish. Besides, I did put the place you wished to go in that list too.”
“Aramis Spring?” The excitement of the voice could be sensed.
Symphony smiled and nodded. “Yes, Aramis spring. You wished to go there, right?”
“Yes, please! I’ll be patient, I will!”
Sync woke up and noticed the woken girl. He stood up from his chair. Symphony was startled by him. She turned to him and nodded slowly as a greeting. Sync huffed and scratched his head. He ignored her and was about to exit when a soft hand grabbed his gloved ones. He turned around to see the small girl.
“Where are you going?” she asked.
“I’m going to take a walk. Will you please, let go of me?” he demanded.
“Take me with you, please. I want to see the stars,” symphony pleaded.
“Huh? No way! I hate troubles and you’re one of them!” he shouted in a low voice.
Symphony was stunned by his words. Her hold loosened and Sync broke away. He looked at her for brief seconds before proceeding to exit the inn. Symphony stood there, processing what he had said.
“He sure is a jerk! Symphony, if you want to take a walk, then go. I’m here with you.”
“He said such mean words…” Symphony sighed.
“Don’t bother! He’s just lonely but he would not admit it!”
“I guess…let’s go…”
Symphony dragged herself outside. The moment the night air hit her, she felt relieved and refreshed. She stood there for a while. Then she started walking. She went to the bridge and stood there, staring at the watermill. The night was very peaceful, just how she liked it. She looked up at the stars and remembered Melody as well as her father. She remembered Jade, too. It has only been a few days but how she missed them!
“Hey!” a voice called, snapping her from her thoughts.
“H-Huh?” she stammered turning to the owner of the voice.
“What are you doing here?” Sync demanded with his hands on each side of his waist.
“I…uh…w-wanted to e-enjoy the...n-night air…” she stammered again, backing away.
“If they know what you’re doing, you’re dead you know?” the boy sighed angrily.
Symphony trembled a bit. She wanted Symph to take over but she didn’t want the Six God-Generals to know about her. Sync took a step closer to the girl, grabbed her hand and pulled her to follow him.
“I have to get you back!” he huffed.
“B-But…!” symphony protested.
She cringed as his grip got tighter. Sync didn’t care and kept on pulling her to the inn. Once they were there, he pushed her in and waited for her to lie in bed. Symphony did as told because she was too scared to oppose him. Of all the God-Generals, Sync was the only one who showed no respect to her.
In a whisper, Sync ordered, “Now, go to sleep!”
“Hmm…” she obeyed.
She closed her eyes and forced herself to sleep. Sync went back to his chair and slept too.
The next day, Symphony woke up a bit later than the God-Generals. When she did, they were just about done with their breakfast. Legretta made some sandwiches for them, obtaining the ingredients at the stalls.
“Good morning, Your Highness. Would you like to eat now?” she asked the Princess.
“No thank you, I would like to take a walk around first,” Symphony replied, getting out of bed.
She made her bed as neat as she could.
“Shall we escort you?” Largo asked.
Symphony turned to look at Sync who was busy munching on a sandwich. He sensed her stare and turned to her. She could guess that he was looking at her through his bird-like mask. She shook her head.
“I want to be alone, if I may…” she muttered.
“If you say so…” Largo obliged.
He, Asch, Legretta and Arietta looked at each other back and forth. The Princess excused herself and exited the inn. She strolled around the place. The dwellers greeted her and bowed to her. She stopped at a small orchard; beside it was a rappig sty. The rappigs reminded her of her father.
“Good morning, Princess!” the man working at the orchard called out.
“Oh, good morning! I didn’t see you there,” she replied, smiling happily.
The man came up to her with a bunch of grapes. She was still smiling at him as he handed her the grapes. The girl was confused.
“Fresh from the orchard… I want to thank the Emperor for creating such a peaceful place to live in. I’ve always wanted a remote area like this…not too remote and not too crowded either…” he explained to her.
“Thank you for the grapes…” Symphony said, taking one into her mouth, “I see what you mean. This is quite a peaceful place. I like it too…”
“If so, be free to come by anytime!” the man exclaimed happily.
“I wish I could…” she mumbled and sighed.
Symphony excused herself and head towards the stalls. There was a fruit stall, meat stall, vegetable stall and cooking ingredients stall too. Symphony squatted down at the fruit stall and eyed the fruit there.
“Hello, Princess. I’ve been wishing to see you,” the stall keeper greeted her.
“Oh, hello! This must be the fruits that are sent to the Capital, correct?” she replied, keeping her eyes on the fruits.
“Oh, yes! The same ones as those. Care to have an apple?”
The stall keeper took one apple, wiped it with a clean cloth and handed it over to Symphony. The girl wanted to pay but he refused to take the money. She thanked him with a smile. Soon, some more villagers started to gather around her, pouring her with questions but she had not enough to answer each of them.
“My, my…you look just like the Emperor,” a woman said.
“If you had had a mother, she would have been as beautiful as you,” another woman said.
“I…I had had one? What do you mean?” Symphony was a bit surprised to hear that statement.
The woman who stated that covered her mouth with her hands. The others looked panic but tried their best to hide them. She looked at each of the villagers in front of her. She stepped forward and looked around again.
“What do you mean?” she demanded, but still in a polite manner.
“A-Ah, it’s almost lunch! I have to go home and cook!” the woman who stated that, said, panicking.
She rushed towards her home. The others started making the same excuse and soon, she was left all alone there, with the stall keepers that is. She stared into space, thinking back of what the woman had said.
“Your Highness…” a familiar voice called.
Symphony turned around and saw Asch, walking up to her. She forced a smile so that he wouldn’t be worried. What she didn’t know was that Asch had heard everything. He kind of knew how she felt.
“We were supposed to get back to the Capital to board a ship…” Asch explained.
“O-Oh, right! W-We’re going to K-Keterburg next…” she stammered, putting her right hand on her forehead and rubbing it a bit.
“Shall we get going…?” the Bloody asked.
“Y-Yes…let’s go…” she replied, staggering to the inn.
Asch walked behind her so that if she fell, he would be able to catch her on time. She struggled to keep herself excited and happy. She didn’t want anyone to know about what she had heard. Was it true? Was it just a lie? All she knew was that everyone in the capital told her that her mother died when she was born.
When they got there, everyone was ready to head out. Legretta noticed her devastated expression. She crouched down and gazed into the girl’s eyes. She put her forehead onto the girl’s.
“Are you feeling well, Your Highness?” she asked.
Symphony forced a smiled and nodded. “I’m fine! Let’s get going…!”
Legretta was in doubt. She turned to Asch and the guy shook his head. Largo decided to board a carriage like the last time. Fortunately, there was a carriage coming up to Engeve and the driver agreed to send them all to the Capital. Arietta rode her liger as usual and Dist was on his chair. Largo, Asch and Sync walked behind the carriage in order to guard it.
“Why didn’t you join them?” Largo asked the green haired boy.
“Like I would!” Sync replied coldly.
In the carriage were Symphony and Legretta. The girl was getting used to the bumpy ride. She was leaning onto Legretta’s shoulder, tired. She didn’t know why she was so tired. May be because of thinking too much? Or maybe she thinks she’s tired.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” Legretta asked.
“Y-Yes…I’m just a bit tired…” Symphony replied.
“I hope so…” the Quick replied.
“Legretta…can Keterburg wait tomorrow? I want to see father,” Symphony requested.
It was so sudden that Legretta was stunned. It took her awhile to process what the girl had said. Then, she nodded.
“As you wish…we shall wait for you at the inn.”
Symphony smiled and nodded. When they arrived, the girl rushed to the palace. The soldiers were surprised to see her, the maids were surprised to see her, and all that’s left was her father.
“Symphony…” the father said.
“Father…” the girl panted, catching her breath.
“What is the matter?” Peony asked her in a calm tone.
Jade came in after receiving the news of Symphony’s return. He knew why she did. He waited by the door of the Emperor’s chamber.
“Today…” Symphony started.
“Today?” the Emperor was confused.
“Today…I heard the strangest thing…” the girl continued.
Her voice cracked as tears started to flood her cheeks. Peony panicked. He rushed up to his daughter and hugged her.
“What is the matter? Tell me!” he said, rubbing her back soothingly.
“I heard…from the villagers…they said, ‘If I had had a mother…’…” she sobbed.
Peony was silent. He stood still as he hugged her. She waited for him to tell her something. She wanted to know the truth. Peony didn’t know what to tell her. Can he still lie? Will she accept his lies? If she had known the truth, will she still accept her life and live? He didn’t know the outcomes of it and he didn’t want to know. He wanted Symphony to stay as his daughter without knowing the truth. That was when General Curtiss stepped.
“My, my…” Jade approached the two.
“M-Master Jade…” Symphony turned to him, breaking the hug.
“Those villagers didn’t know that you had a mother. That’s why they say that…you see they thought you were adopted,” Jade lied.
“They did?” the girl asked, wiping her dreadful tears.
“Yes…you see, we didn’t have time to explain and so, they made they own point,” the Necromancer lied more.
Symphony turned to her father and he nodded to justify what Jade had said. Symphony felt a bit relief although she still had her doubts. After she had calmed down, she excused herself to meet up with the God-Generals.
“Took you long enough!” Sync was angry.
“Legretta told us that you wanted to depart tomorrow. Do you?” Largo asked.
Symphony shook her head and smiled. “No. Let’s go now. The sooner the better, I can’t wait to play in the snow!”
She took Asch by the hand and pulled him with her to the dock. The others followed with confusion in their minds, except for Dist. He was far too annoyed to notice Symphony’s changed of behavior. They boarded a ship to Keterburg Bay and from there, they would head to Keterburg.