Zakiah Adara: Year One

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Part Three: I Failed You

There stood Devona, wearing a new expression that none of them had see on her since they met her. The scared, happy teenager was now transformed into a strong warrior whose only weapons seemed to be her sharp blue eyes and determination. Her aura was different now: strong, powerful, what they had all expected a Princess to be.

Now on her arms she wore the silver bracers that had belonged to the Blue Dragon. The sapphire dragons that had been etched onto each of the silver bands were now glowing intently.

Ulric was the first to react to her presence. “Devona! Get back inside!”

“Wait, look,” whispered Arthur. Ulric turned his attention back to the demoness to see that she had now dropped Thea to the ground and her face was furious.

“What’s going on?” inquired Kai.

Arthur shook his head, “No idea.”

“You dare show yourself to me?” snapped Mushin.

“You didn’t really leave me much of a choice now did you? Never before have you been so forward this early. Trying to kill me on the first night and then taking the child. I could not stand idly by and wait for you to strike again,” replied the blonde.

While the demoness was distracted, Thea slowly was crawling her way back toward the group. Kestrel and Arthur both ran to her side once she was only a few feet away. Ulric and Kai watched the two women, knowing that soon this could turn into a physical battle.

Mushin smirked, raising a bloody hand into the air, “I almost hoped you would be the first. I do so enjoy ruining your life again and again.”

Devona widened her stance for better support, preparing for an attack. Ulric took a small step toward her, ready to detour Mushin if it need be necessary.

“Things will be different this time around. You will not bring pain to this girl!” snapped Devona.

“What the hell is going on?” asked Kai.

Ulric didn’t answer. He continued to watch the situation develop, ready to jump in at a moment’s notice. He just prayed he would be quick enough to stop an attack. Still, the look alone on Devona’s face ordered him to stay put.

Princess, you still don’t have all your powers, remember? I’m not even quite sure if you have any at all. You should have stayed inside…then you wouldn’t have to see the young one die.”

They all knew what she meant by that. In an instant Mushin raised her palm toward where the guardians lay surrounding Thea’s tired little bloody body. Kestrel’s eyes went wide in fear, this couldn’t be happening!

There was no more time to think, they could already see the energy moving through Mushin’s arm, preparing a powerful attack. Akki and Kai moved toward Devona, hoping to shield her from the attack. Devona stared in horror.

Kestrel didn’t know what to do, her body moved without her even trying to make it. She was falling, flying over the ground, and it wasn’t until her back hit the grass and she rolled away from the horrific scene that she finally grasped what exactly had happened.

Arthur, the great warrior of the 11th Constellation, hero of the Serpent kingdom, had shoved Kestrel out of the way and threw himself over Thea. He deserved to be a guardian, he was born to be a guardian and there he went again living out his birth right.

Kestrel gasped as Mushin finally let out her lethal attack. What looked like black fire flew through the air as though it were a large spear. It was all surreal…this wasn’t happening…this couldn’t be happening…it had to be a dream…a dream.

Devona was able to get out a scream just as Mushin’s attack struck. The sound of blood and flesh being torn from bones filled the air, and the smell of death soon followed. The two bodies lay there shaking from the impact and all four of those not involved stood silently waiting to see the outcome.


Slowly Arthur opened his blue eyes to look down at the little one he had tried so desperately hard to protect. Her glittering green eyes looked up at him with a joy he did not expect to see. He knew that he did not stop the attack. It had gone straight through both of them. It was so powerful it left a huge hole in the ground as well.

“Thank you,” Thea whispered.

“I failed you…”

“But…you tried…”

None of the others heard this. All they saw were two bodies shivering with life one second, and then the next they were lifeless. Arthur’s slipping to the ground away from the girl.

Kestrel pulled herself up onto her side, and stared in disbelief. Her eyes were so wide they felt as though they were going to leap from their sockets. Even before she felt the pain of sadness, the tears began to flow.

Devona fell to her knees, grasping at the grass as she too began to cry. The strength she had a few seconds earlier was completely gone.

The two men just stood there, looks of disbelief on their faces as well. How…how could they already have lost two guardians? Why the child? Why the bravest of them all?

All the demoness could do was smirk, “Well, two birds with one stone, that works for me. Until we meet again, Princess.”

And with a flap of her giant wings, she was gone.


None of them really knew what to say to each other. Akki and Kai had Arthur’s blood all over them from carrying his lifeless body back to the palace while Kestrel was covered in Thea’s. She had cradled Thea in her arms like the child she was. All the way back, Kestrel fought the tears.

Devona sat on the marble floor, her head buried in her knees, crying her heart out.

This was all her fault. If she hadn’t been here then both Arthur and Thea would still be alive. If she had moved faster, if she had been able to get to her feet, maybe she could have stopped Mushin. Maybe Mushin would have taken here instead of Thea…

Her fingers ripped at her scalp. Tears came easily, as much as she hated to cry, she wasn’t even trying to stop them. All she could do now was pray that God would forgive her and take care of them for the rest of eternity.

Devona noticed as Kestrel looked up at Akki to find him simply leaning against the wall, wiping some of the blood off of his armor with a rag. The epitome of what a guardian was supposed to be: firm, strong, still holding his head high with no emotion at all. Kestrel twitched in anger and stomped her foot to the ground. Her tan eyes focused intently on the guardian in front of her.

“How dare you! Have you become so numb that you have no feeling at all?”

Devona tried to focus on Kestrel through the blur of her bloodshot eyes, “Kestrel…”

However she was cut off. “Shut up! You have no idea what he has done! You have no idea what has made him so cold!”

Finally Akki turned his attention to the angry woman. The rag fell to his side as he defended himself, “I am not numb to the situation Kestrel. Many people are going to die in this war. Tens of thousands have already died. If we get upset over every one we will always be crying.”

“You bastard! She was only a child! She shouldn’t have even been here in the first place!”

“Don’t you dare diminish what she was!” snapped back Akki. Kestrel was shocked. “She was a guardian, just like the rest of us. Even if she was a child she was chosen for a reason! Do you honestly think that Queen Oriana would throw a child into this war if it wasn’t absolutely necessary? She was a child, yes, but she belonged here, just like the rest of us, don’t you dare take that away from her!”

“Now you are turning this against me? You’re the one who didn’t even shed a tear! You were there, how could you not have felt anything?”

His eyes narrowed at her but he still stood his ground, “Over the years I have learned to hide my pain. I have felt so much in my life that it would take a lot more to make me cry.”

“Oh yeah, how about this!”

Devona looked up at Kestrel just in time to see Kestrel raise her bow and arrow and aim directly at Devona’s neck. The Princess didn’t even react because this just wasn’t real. It couldn’t be. There was no way a guardian could do that…right?

Kestrel was shaking but her face was very serious, still Devona couldn’t seem to move. She once again felt like a frozen deer. All she could do now was sit there and hope that Kestrel would quickly come to her senses.

“Kestrel, put the bow down!” snapped Akki.

“Do something about it. Kill me why don’t you! You wouldn’t even care! But Devona is different though, isn’t she?”

“Put it down Kestrel!” yelled Kai.

“I’m not going to hurt you, now put the bow down!” said Akki.

She sneered at him, “Screw you Akki.”

As she drew back on the string, Kai lunged at Kestrel, pulling the arrow from her hands. She struggled against him, but he was stronger than her and won the arrow away. He then dropped both the bow and arrow to the ground. Kestrel continued to struggle against him, and after time she eventually gave up.

She continued to glare down at Devona. Danger hung in the air between the four of them, none of them really knowing what to do next. After a few minutes, Kai finally let go of Kestrel and she shoved him away from her. She picked up her bow and arrow and turned away from the group. Was she ashamed by her actions? The look on her face said that was not the case.

“Seems I arrived just in time,” said a calm voice. They all turned to see Queen Oriana coming down the stairs to meet with them. Devona jumped to her feet and Kestrel turned toward the queen as all of them bowed. Once they returned to their normal stance they realized the sad look she had on her face.

“My queen,” whispered Akki.

“I wish things could have gone better for all of you, but this is the way it was meant to be. So, what exactly happened?” inquired Queen Oriana.

All of them stood in silence with the heads hung. No one wanted to admit their failure to the queen. Each of them tried to sum up the best way to explain what had happened to her, but it just kept coming out wrong in their heads.

Finally, Devona spoke up, “It was my fault.”

The queen looked shocked, “Your fault?”

“Yes…” Devona paused and then continued, “Mushin went after me, but then…she left me and grabbed Thea. I couldn’t do anything to stop her...”

Queen Oriana stood silently. They all waited for her response, but there was nothing. Devona couldn’t take it anymore and cuffed her hand to her mouth as she began to cry once more.

The queen closed her eyes. When she opened them again she looked toward Akki.

“Will you three please leave me alone with the Princess for a few minutes?” she said.

“Yes queen,” all three of the guardians said. With another bow from each of them, they turned and left the main room, and went outside to the terrace.

Queen Oriana took a seat on the stairs and looked at Devona who was still fighting back tears before her. She extended her arm to her side, inviting Devona to join her. Devona was able to stop the tears long enough to move to sit alongside of her.

The sadness in the queen’s eyes was gone and all that remained was compassion

“Devona, do you have wars on Earth?” asked the queen with a very soft voice.

“Yeah,” sniffed Devona, “but, they’re so far away…I’ve…I’ve never see someone die before.”

The queen sighed, “I’m so sorry that you had to be thrown into this, but I’m afraid you can’t change destiny.” Devona simply nodded. “I know that this is going to be hard for you and I know right now you are wishing you weren’t here. Thinking that maybe if you weren’t here they would still be alive, right?”

Devona nodded again.

Queen Oriana laid her hand on Devona’s shoulder. It brought her attention back to the queen’s caring face. The smile was still there and it made Devona feel a little better.

“Princess, you must understand that everything really does happen for a reason. As hard as that may be to see right now, Arthur and Thea’s deaths were not in vain. Be the reason simply for the guardians to be less careless, or perhaps their deaths will save more lives considering you won’t want to see others die. The point of the matter is that they were meant to die tonight. If you were the Princess or not they still would have died. It is a harsh reality, but…it is how this world works. You made mistakes tonight, you will learn from them, as will the guardians. But the best thing you can learn from tonight is not to give up hope, to continue on.

“Blaming yourself because of what happened is not going to bring them back, is it?” Devona shook her head. “This is war, more are going to die. When they do you cannot let Mushin see any weakness. She will take full advantage of it. You must stay strong. I know it will be hard, but your guardians will be there for you. Believe in them and all will be fine.”

Devona slowly reached up to wipe away a few more tears and then she looked up at the queen with a smile of her own. “Thank you. You’re right. I have to trust destiny…it’s just hard.”

“I know, but you wouldn’t have been chosen if the Lord didn’t think you could handle it. I have faith in you Princess. I have faith in all of you.”

“Thank you Queen Oriana, for everything.”

Next thing Devona knew she was hugging the Queen of Zakiah Adara. At first she was shocked and thought about pulling away, but she realized that Queen Oriana was hugging her back. Devona smiled and hugged the queen tightly. Right now, Devona felt like she had no one in the world to turn to. It was nice to at least have a friend to talk to, even if she was the queen of the entire world.

“Uh, excuse me?”

Devona looked up to see Kai standing near them. Quickly, she wiped her eyes, trying to hide the tears from him, even though she wasn’t quite sure why. He had already seen her cry tonight, but still…

“Yes Kai?” asked the queen.

“I just wanted to check up on the Princess,” he said.

That was surprising, but Devona was sure that tonight really had changed them all. The cocky young prince, who practically refused to meet her, was now checking to make sure she was feeling alright? It felt strange, but she was not going to question it.

Instead, the queen rose to her feet and smiled at him.

“I believe she is feeling better now, right?” She was able to nod. “Good, perhaps you can show her to her room?”

“Yes my queen.”

Queen Oriana looked at Devona one last time and placed her hand softly on Devona’s shoulder. The queen really only wanted what was best for Devona: to help keep her safe and sane. It was just too bad that Devona was already worried about the second part. Queen Oriana turned and went up the stairs where she and the Princess had been sitting, disappearing from view, but obviously not from Devona’s life.

“Come on Princess, I’ll take you to your room.”

She looked back at Kai. The cocky swagger she had already come to known was gone for now. He said earlier that all of his family was dead, tonight must have been a reminder of that. Devona sighed and slowly stood up. Her legs were still wobbly from all the ordeals tonight. Her jacket had holes and blood all over it, but amazingly the cuts from the glass were gone. Devona wondered if it had something to do with when she went after Mushin. She tugged the sleeves down over her hands, over the bracers, and looked up at him.

“You don’t have to call me Princess,” she said.

He sighed, “I was hoping you wouldn’t say that.”

“Why?”

“Because…I don’t really remember your name.”

Devona grimaced. Really? It seemed he really didn’t care about meeting her after all. “Devona.”

He smiled, “Thank you.”

“No problem,” she said with a sarcastic tone.

“This way,” he motioned to where the guardians had left earlier.

The journey to her room was awkward and quiet. What could they possibly say to each other after such a nightmarish evening? Instead, Devona shoved her hands into her blue jean pockets, and kept her eyes on the floor. Kai kept looking at her, as if he wanted to say something, but never did. He would always end up looking ahead and leading the way.

Soon, they came to a stop in front of a large maple door with a diamond shaped knob that looked like it belonged in an old Victorian house. Strangely enough, she was eager to see the bed she would be sleeping in tonight, or at least trying to sleep in. All she kept seeing were images of Thea and Arthur dying…over and over again…

“Well.” His voice broke her from her trance. Her eyes found his again, trying her best to look like she had been paying attention to their silence. He didn’t seem to buy it. They both looked at each other, neither of them wanting to move or say anything. So, Devona finally broke the stalemate and placed her hand on the knob.

As her fingers curled around the cool glass, he finally spoke.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve seen something like what happened tonight.”

She glanced back at him. Now he was the one who was distant. She knew that his thoughts were off with his family. Images of her family came to mind. How the last time she was home she was sneaking out of her house in what she considered a sexy outfit. How Brian was trying to convince her that Mark was a jerk. How Lizzy stole her favorite top. How she completely disobeyed her parents for one of the first times, something that she might never get to apologize for.

She shook her head and whispered, “I never want to see that again. But…I have a horrible feeling that we all will.”

“Sadly.” He looked away from her, down to the white marble floor. Lost in her own discomfort, the only way she saw out was by opening the door. She turned the handle to escape, but his words stopped her again. “It wasn’t your fault.”

This time, she let go of the handle.

“You have to know that.”

She actually laughed, “Kind of hard when you have an arrow pointing at your head saying otherwise.”

“Kestrel doesn’t usually act that way, but Thea was like a sister to her.”

“I know that.”

“If you need anyone to talk to, I’m always here.”

She looked up at him to see he was genuinely concerned about her. Who would have thought that the cocky prince would humble himself enough by making sure she was okay? If one thing good had come from the horror, this was it.

Devona smiled, “Thanks, I really appreciate that. Maybe not tonight, but I’m sure I’ll take you up on that offer.”

“Just keep it in mind.”

“Thanks, goodnight Kai.”

“Goodnight Devona.”


It was a stormy day a few days later when they had the funeral for the fallen guardians. They were to be buried in a specific cemetery that had been set aside for all of those that had died in the war against Mushin. There were many memorials to Princesses, guardians, and people who got involved on their own accord. It was a beautiful and scary place all at once. There were many statues and headstones all around made from grey cabal stone, black marble, wood, and more. All of which were cold, empty, and dead.

Not many people attended, mostly because there was no way to get the families here in time. Queen Oriana had sent Meishu and his brother to inform the families of the deaths. The queen feared it would be too informal but knew that the families had a right to know. Akki wondered about how Thea’s family would take the information of her death. She was their baby…

Instead, only the three guardians, Devona, Queen Oriana, and a few servants attended. It was short and simple, but it seemed to be enough for Kestrel. As the rain turned from a drizzle to a downpour, so did the tears.

Once the service was over, Kestrel remained by the side of the two mahogany caskets.

Devona, Akki, and Kai all looked at each other with sad eyes, not sure what to do to help her. Akki sighed and turned the others.

“Go on back, I’ll check on her.”

“But—­” Before Devona could protest, Kai gently grabbed her arm.

“Come on, for once I agree with him.”

After a few more moments of struggle, Devona finally gave in and followed Kai.

Akki slowly walked over to Kestrel’s side and allowed his eyes to follow her gaze. There on Thea’s tiny casket with a bouquet of pink roses and daisies.

Kestrel sighed calling his attention back to her face. “She loved those, daisies especially. She would search for them and bring them back for her mother. She was always so happy…”

“Kestrel,” whispered Akki, “I’m sorry for leaving you with them, if I hadn’t…”

She looked up at him with tears in her eyes, “This would be easier? No…it wouldn’t.” She shook her head and looked at the casket. “It’s just…when my mother died…it was so painful. I can’t even imagine losing a child. Plus…I should have kept a better eye on her. I shouldn’t have just left her alone like that.”

“We left Devona alone too. It was the first night. We believed that they would be safe. Even the queen thought they were safe.”

Kestrel shook her head, “But…they weren’t safe. Now, Thea’s dead and it’s my fault.” No longer could she hold back her tears. She quickly covered her eyes with her hands, shutting herself off from the world once again.

Akki sighed and placed a gentle hand on Kestrel’s shoulder. She glanced up at him with red eyes and puffy cheeks. As much grief as she had given him about not caring, he hoped that she knew that he did. He was the one who had found Thea’s family for Kestrel to stay with. He felt responsible for her pain.

“You want revenge don’t you?” he asked quietly.

Her eyes went wide. Perhaps he shouldn’t be saying something like that, they were guardians after all. But he knew that since the night that Thea died that was all she could possibly think about. Slowly Kestrel nodded.

“If that is what it takes for you to hate Mushin, so be it. Don’t let it distract you from your purpose.”

Kestrel sighed and let her hands drop away from her face. “What is my purpose?”

He narrowed his eyes, “To protect the Princess.”

She glanced away from him, “I knew you were going to say that.”

“What is it that you dislike about her?”

Kestrel was silent, staring at the ground, almost afraid of what his reaction would be. It seemed as though Akki was really the only one who accepted the Princess as being a real Princess and acted as though he would protect her with his life.

“Kestrel?”

“It’s not that I don’t like her…it’s just that…she seems so…young. And…”

“She’s alive and Thea’s not?”

The rain continued to fall. Kestrel’s lip twitched, and he could see her struggling to maintain a straight face. It was the truth that she didn’t want to admit, but she was angry that Devona was still here and Thea was dead.

Kestrel looked up at him, “I wasn’t actually going to go through with it, and you know that right?”

“I had hoped not.”

She looked down at her hands and then balled them into fists. “I was just…so angry, and it didn’t seem like you cared at all about their deaths. I was so torn up…I just couldn’t hold in my feelings anymore.”

“Kestrel, you know how I am. I’ve seen so much death I have become numb to it. It really takes a lot to get a reaction out of me.”

“You must feel dead inside,” she whispered.

“I’ve been dead inside for years.”

“Ulric…”

He had already turned away from her and started towards the exit. Thunder crackled across the sky, Akki looked up at the dark heavy clouds that hung above. There was nothing left to say. With one last look down at the tiny wooden casket, Kestrel whispered goodbye and followed Akki.

As they left the cemetery, Akki heard her whisper.

“I’m sorry I failed you.”


It was very quiet.

Devona was more alone now than she had been since she arrived in Zakiah Adara. All of the guardians were off preparing for the journey to look for her Star Point, which she still wasn’t entirely sure what was. The servants finally realized that she wasn’t going to try and escape if they left her alone for a few minutes. Though without the servants watching her like stalkers and the guardians yelling and even trying to kill her she felt a bit lonely.

Sighing, she laid back on the large old Victorian bed. She couldn’t quite figure out if the red velvet bed spread was comfortable or a little too stiff. Either way, it was hard to sleep in this world at all, no matter how comfortable the bed may or may not be.

Her blue eyes stared at the canopy that was extended overhead. How long had she been there now? Had it really only been three days since she arrived? Could she really make it through five years of this? Already she missed home. She hadn’t even been given a chance to say goodbye to her family. That was probably her biggest regret. Already she could see her brother freaking out, maybe even beating up Mark thinking he did something to do.

“Mark,” growled Devona. She had completely forgotten all about him. She also regretted that she was never able to officially break up with him.

She was trying to forget about the pain, which included both Mark and the recent events. Even with the deaths of Arthur and Thea, she was trying her best to live up to the little girl’s advice. She had to try and have fun and try to find the good even through the war. Already, she found herself focusing on the boys for comfort…

There was no denying the immediate attraction to Akki. He was absolutely gorgeous, the best looking man she had ever met. Still, there was something dark about him. The quiet strength that surrounded him was shrouded in a harsh past, she just knew it.

However, looking back on the past few days here, Kai spent a lot more time with her than Akki. He seemed to go out of his way to make sure she felt comfortable here and that she was alright after that horrible incident. Even after the funeral he tried his best to cheer her up. He would even make wisecrack remarks and she found herself laughing freely for the first time since she had arrived.

“He is really sweet,” Devona was blushing. Quickly she covered her mouth right after the words exited. Could it be that she liked Kai? Well, he was good looking …not really her type, but he was cute. Especially with that mischievous look he always wore and even when he had that sad look in his eyes that hurt her heart.

“I’m such a teenager.”

Devona turned herself over onto her stomach. All of this alone time was making her think too much. It just wasn’t bad enough when she thought that Akki was attractive, now it seemed like she was developing a crush on Kai. Not to mention the whole “Princesses can’t be with guardians” thing. First Akki and now Kai, Devona was getting really good at picking her guys.

“Devona?” inquired a voice.

She quickly sat up to see Kestrel standing in her doorway. Devona was too shocked to greet he. The red head guardian invited herself in and slowly shut the door behind her. It took a few seconds of silence until she turned to face Devona.

“I wanted to talk to you about the other night.”

“Oh, it’s alright, just don’t make it a constant thing, okay?” Devona was trying her best to seem strong. The truth was that she was still terrified of Kestrel. She would have to find a way around that feeling and it seemed the humor was the best choice for now. It was the solution for most of her problems.

Kestrel sighed and looked down at the ground, “I just wanted to let you know, that will not happen again. I let my emotions get the best of me. I should never have done that. It wasn’t even you I was angry with…”

“I know you don’t like me Kestrel.”

Kestrel gave her a solemn look.

“I mean, we’re different. You’re a girl who has been here her entire life. You live according to Zakiah Adara and I live according to Earth. Of course we are going to act differently. No one really expects us to be best friends. We just have to try not to kill each other.”

Kestrel smiled lightly and walked over to the bed. She sat down on the red velvet with an ease and grace that Devona wished she had.

She looked over at the Princess with gentle eyes, “I’d like to try. Maybe even I can your friend…eventually.”

Devona laughed, “Yeah, that’d be nice. Well, I guess I just need to learn what it’s like to live here in Zakiah Adara and I should teach you about Earth.”

“Well, first and foremost, you must remember that you cannot look within the guardians for a relationship. It’s forbidden for a guardian and Princess to be together.”

Devona sighed, “I know…I’ll try to control myself.” With such good looking men around and Devona being on the rebound, it was going to be very hard for her.

“Good and I’ll try to be more open minded to the fact that you aren’t from Zakiah Adara. It might be hard but I’ll try as well.”

“Okay.”

There was a long awkward silence between the two of them. They had finally realized that they really had nothing to say to each other.

“Well,” Kestrel said as she stood up, “I better finish getting ready. I hope you know how to ride.”

“Ride? Like…a bike?”

Kestrel smiled a little, “No.”

“Then I’m going to assume that you mean ride as in horses.” Kestrel nodded. “Yeah…I don’t know how to ride a horse. I rode a pony at the fair once when I was a kid. But it was on a rope and walked in a circle.”

Kestrel sighed and put her hands on her hips, “You really did live a privileged life.”

“Hey, you can’t get mad at me for not knowing how to ride a horse!”

“I’m not mad, I’m simply shocked.”

“Fine, I guess you can be shocked, just not mad.”

Kestrel smiled, “I’ll try to keep my anger under control.”

Devona smiled in return, “And I’ll try to keep my stupid girlish ways under control as well.”

“Sounds like a good trade.”

Kestrel gave one last glance at Devona. The Princess smiled at her guardian, knowing that it would take more than one conversation to make them friends. With a small nod, Kestrel turned and left the room, leaving Devona all alone again. She sighed and lay back down on the bed staring at the canopy. She really did want to be on Kestrel’s good side. She really did want to keep her crushes under control, but she just didn’t know if that were possible.


Akki sat silently outside the palace, trying to block the images from his mind again. The deaths of Thea and Arthur had just brought back painful memories that he had been suppressed for many years. Now they were awake again with vibrant colors and he knew they were only going to get worse.

He knew that being a guardian would come along with killing those who try to harm the Princess. It seemed as though the events to come were just going to be a cruel reminder of the past. Except this time he would be doing the killing. Just him.

The screams were wild in his head, dangerously loud, demanding his demise. For the same fate that he had brought upon so many, and especially hers…

He could still envision her perfectly. Flowing locks of red curls, those deep crimson eyes and the intense look that drove shivers down his spine. He could still see the one dimple that she had on her right cheek that her left cheek lacked. He could even still smell her, as if she were by his side. But she wasn’t there. She hadn’t been there for five years and she would never be there again.

More than anything else, he could still hear her screams. He heard the pain in her voice as she cried out from within the fire. If only he had arrived there a few minutes earlier. If only he had been there by her side and never left her.

Now, he was afraid that he was starting to have feelings for the Princess. He even allowed her to call him Akki, something he didn’t allow for everyone to do except for Queen Oriana. It was a name that reminded him too much of the past. The name that ultimately related to the innocent person he was before the incidents he wanted to forget. Still, when she looked at him with those beautiful blue eyes, it was almost as though he saw crimson instead.

However, rules were rules. No matter the attraction, nothing would ever happen between them. Besides the rule, there was the fact that he had promised himself he would never love again. He wasn’t worthy of it.

Still, he could not stand the sight of Kai getting close to Devona. It made his stomach turn. He felt himself resorting back to his childhood and almost wanted to scream, “I saw her first!” However, his feelings were nothing more than attraction. It was something he could suppress, just like his memories, and he would have to.

“Ulric.”

Akki looked back to see the man in question standing there with a stern look.

“What is it?”

Kai let out a sound that sounded like a growl, it probably was one. “I just wanted to remind you that I will never forget about what you’ve done. Once all of this is over, I will kill you. Hell, five years from now, I should have the skills to kill you.”

Akki looked away, “So you admit that you can’t kill me now?”

“This has nothing to do with that! I’m simply telling you this so you don’t feel safe. If this war does not kill you, I will. Either way, you’re a dead man!”

“As you say, Kai.”

“I’m not joking…”

“I know you aren’t, but what do you want me to do? That’s five years away. I can’t worry about that right now.”

Kai balled his hands into fists. “You’d had better pray that Mushin takes your life before I am able to get my hands on you. Because, if you are still alive, I will do to you what you did to every single member of my family.”

Akki closed his eyes, trying to stop those memories from playing in his mind. “Good night Kai,” he whispered.

“I’m not done!” shouted Kai. Akki simply looked at him. This was no different from what Kai had told him hundreds of times before. Akki could never say sorry for what he did to Kai’s family, there was no way he could ever be forgiven, and he just couldn’t deal with that right now.

“Say whatever you have to if it makes you feel any better.”

Kai was shaking now, “How can you live with yourself? How could you pick up the sword again?” Akki ignored him. He wasn’t going to say anything else to Kai tonight. “How?”

Without another word, Akki stood and went back toward the palace. Akki’s hands were in fists at his side, ready to fight back if Kai were to come after him. Surprisingly though, Kai didn’t bother to follow. Perhaps he had finally given up realizing he wasn’t going to get anywhere tonight. Instead, Akki walked quietly into the light from within, trying to suppress even more memories.


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