The Flames That Bind Us

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15. The Flames In Me

Well, that was certainly weird.

For Aramis, I don’t think this man has one bone of normalcy in him. Then again, none of us did actually. I continued on my way back to find Lis and the King, my head turning whichever way in hopes of locating them. Though it was way past midnight, people still swarmed the fair and the lights still illuminated brightly, showing no sign of dimming any time soon.

People were crushed against my sides and I practically had to shove my way out. I almost tripped when a little boy suddenly appeared at my right but thankfully I managed to evade it. Geez! Can’t these people go home already?

“Excuse me...” I tried to squeeze my way through, getting hit on the ribs every now and then by either people’s elbows or the edges of their shopping baskets.

I winced at the pain that stung at my sides, feeling as if I was being continuously poked by wooden sticks. I just wanted to find the Princess and her brother and be on my way already. Well, that is if they were still here anyway.

Maybe they ditched me? Well I would certainly expect it from the King, but I don’t think the Princess would bail on me, or let her brother convince her to.

Anyway, let’s just hope they were nearby.

I was too focused on finding my companions—whom I’ve hoped didn’t return to the palace already—to pay attention to the big cloaked figure who seemed to make his way through on the opposite side of my direction. My shoulder immediately made impact with his arm, making my entire form stumble backwards from the force of the hit.

Thankfully, I did manage to contain my balance and not fall down on my ass. Ugh! Why do I keep running into people!? Though it did seem like he was the one to run into me, almost intentionally...

Embarrassed, and slightly annoyed, I jerked my head up to look at him. For a moment, I thought it was the King himself who I had bumped into yet again. His figure, height, and the colour of his cloak were similar but the eyes that stared back at me weren’t the King’s silver ones.

A shiver ran through my spine at the haunting eyes that looked down at me with pure mischief, though their owner clearly tried to mask it with what I believe was courtesy, trying to seem as normal as possible.

I caught a glimpse of his features underneath that dark hood of his. His face was hard, almost as if his jaw and cheeks were carved from stone. His skin was darker than mine, almost a bronze colour, and it seemed to blend well with his pitch black eyes.

But what made him questionable were the crimson lines drawn over his neck, chin, cheekbones, and forehead reaching all the way to the bridge of his nose. At that sight my shoulders stiffened for I acknowledged that I was probably standing before a Wizard Hunter.

And judging from the colour of his lines, he was a superior one.

Shit! Aramis warned me that they may be roaming around here. And come to think of it, this was the perfect place for them to hunt a wizard with great powers. After all, people from all around the kingdom come here to witness the fair.

Okay, Lydia, just relax. I can walk out of here just fine if he doesn’t notice anything particularly special about. Yeah, that’s going to be kind of hard since nothing about my physical appearance screams normal.

I tucked my hood closer to my forehead, lowering my head and wrapping my cloak closer to my body so he wouldn’t see my hair.

“Sorry about that, beautiful.” His voice was gruff, definitely matching his appearance.

I swallowed, shaking my head. “No, that’s quite alright, sir. Now if you would excuse me—“ I was about to make a slow run for it when the man’s hand grasped my arm, preventing me from taking another step.

I froze. Damn! “You know,” his free hand went up my chin, and I swallowed even harder when he lifted my face upwards to meet his cunning eyes. “I’ve never seen such eyes before,” he remarked, his orbs lingering on my flame-coloured irises.

I tried to keep on a straight face, pretending to be unfazed by his note.

“They’re so...” he drawled slowly, taking his time to let himself drown in them.”Breath-taking!”

He flashed me a toothy grin, although he tried to make it charming but I could see the wickedness in it. He turned his body to the group of similar-dressed men behind him, still having my face captive. There were about five of them, and they gave us the same grin, glancing at one another.

I noticed the outlines of the same marks as the man holding me. But they were in different colours, some crimson, some black, and others dark blue. Apparently, they were in different stages of their power.

“Yeah, well...um...I just got these new contact lenses. People keep telling me they looked so real.” I hoped to Gods he was buying my bluff, but even I knew that what I was saying was complete and utter bullshit. And he seemed to know that too.

My eyes looked as if bright, orange flames were swirling inside them. They were so vibrant with the different shades the flames had to offer, and they literally looked as if the fire was dancing and swaying. No being in Ignolia would say they were anything other than real. That’s why so many kids at my school were teasing me about it.

“Really, now?” he mused, and I knew he didn’t buy my lie for even one second, as well as his friends for I had caught them snickering and exchange knowing looks.

I swallowed yet again. “Yes.” I nodded, not sure if I was trying to convince him or me. “Now, if you would excuse me, I really must be on my way.” I mentally cursed at my slightly shaky tone, stepping back a few feet and freeing myself out of his hold.

I was relieved when the man didn’t say anything and let me be on my way. He didn’t even attempt to block me and he and his buddies retreated further. I hurried on my steps, getting the feeling that this wasn’t over yet. I don’t know why I had a nagging feeling that they weren’t just going to let me go.

I didn’t even realize that I was holding my breath as I marched straightforwardly, desperately trying to locate someone with a cream-colored cloak. Or even a black one.

I could feel them hot on my tail, tracing after me like a slow predator. Shit! What mess did I get myself into now!? Dammit Lydia, you couldn’t be more careful?

And what the hell kind of excuse was that lenses thing anyway? I mean it was pretty obvious that I was lying...and not well, apparently.

Dismissing my self-anger, I looked carefully over my shoulder to see the hooded men slowly creeping in on me a few meters away. The only thing that separated them from me was a handful of people.

That’s it! Maybe I could lose them in the crowd?

I didn’t waste another second as I continued on my way, thinking of a plan were I could make them lose the sight of me. My heart-beat matched my footsteps, rapidly tapping my feet on the ground.

I need to think of a way quickly, or else my magic will be lost by the hands of those men. And I’m not sure if I was strong enough to face them, and honestly I didn’t want to test it out if it meant losing my magic.

A wave of people were coming my way, their loud chatter overwhelming the air. I started walking in a zigzag pattern, increasing my speed and I notice the men did too, trying to catch up to me.

I let myself get in between people, randomly placing myself wherever my foot managed to reach. I blended in the sea of people surrounding me, cautiously glancing behind me for any sign of the men. I kept doing that until I felt that a shadow has left me, and that I had managed to unknowingly place myself somewhere far off the centre of the fair.

The mass here was lesser, and there weren’t too many shacks and carts for it was close to the edge of the woods. This time, I had the courage to completely look behind me and thankfully there weren’t any suspicious looking men dressed in dark cloaks.

I let a sigh of relief escape my lips, placing my hand over my thudding heart. Great! I had managed to lose them.

“Now...” I placed a hand over my hip, scanning my right and left. “Where do I find a King and a Princess?”

I had mainly come to a conclusion that they had indeed ditched me, but a hand that was suddenly placed on my shoulder jolted my back and I gasped loudly. Shit! Was it the men? Had they found me?

“Lis!” The hand grabbed my shoulder and brought my body to face its owner. I was shocked, and slightly, just a little, relieved that I had come face to face with none other King Gabriel.

But the expression of pure concern crossed over his face caused all that relief to be thrown out of the window. It was then replaced with complete irritation.

“Shit, it’s only you. Have you seen my sister anywhere?” he asked, gritting his teeth and clearly trying to maintain his posture.

“Wait, you mean you lost her again?” I sounded a little panicked, and his only reply to my question was a low growl.

“Fuck! She’s going to be the death of me!” He ran a hand all over his face, stopping at his neck then eyeing me suspiciously. “And where were you?” he enquired.

“I was looking for you two, I thought you ditched me.” I couldn’t help the slight narrowness in my eyes that was attached to my answer.“Also—“ I wasn’t sure if I should tell him about the little encounter I had moments ago. But he is the King of this kingdom and he should know what would possibly endanger his people.

And those men were definitely dangerous.

“Yes?” He seemed interested in what I had to say.

“I saw some Wizard Hunters on my way back. Aramis had warned me about them being here, and they even noticed me. They were following me until I managed to lose them,” I explained.

He only gave me a small nod, his features returning to their hard and cold nature. “If what you’re saying is true then we need to find my sister quickly and evacuate these people immediately. I’ll let my guards deal with the hunters.”

I silently agreed. Though I just wanted to go back to my bed and be as far away from the King as I could, I had to stick myself with him again to find the Princess. I don’t know why she keeps getting lost, but I couldn’t stop that cold feeling in my chest that there was something wrong. Something off.

For the next few minutes we continued to search for the Princess, my mind wandering off to where she could be and if she was in danger like I had somehow sensed in the back of my mind. Oh please Gods, let her be alright...

But apparently my prayer wasn’t answered, because in the corner of my eye I had caught something near some trees located at the edge of the forest that made my blood freeze. Behind those trees were the unending swirling darkness of the woods. I felt my heart-beat quicken and I could feel the dread that twirled in my stomach.

Shit!

Without even realizing it, I had taken hold of the King’s cloak, tugging it to keep him from going any further. I didn’t even bother to see what kind of expression he would make at my unexpected move.

I only pointed a finger at where my eyes trained at. “Your Majesty, look.” His eyes immediately shot back to where I was pointing, and I peeked over my hood to see them widen in shock.

There, a few feet off the fair’s road, dropped near some trees, were the Princess’s shopping basket and her caramel apple. They laid over the ground, the wind blowing away some pages of the books the Princess had bought and the skirts of her autumn dresses.

The King and I immediately sprinted off to where the Princess’s belongings were nested near the trees. “Lis!” the King barked, his knees landing on the ground as he picked one of the dresses and fisted it in his hands.

“Shit! Where the fuck did she go!?” He seemed as if he was about to tear the piece of fabric in his fists, his eyes darker than the sky above us. I exhaled a breath, staring at the melted caramel of the apple the Princess had earlier dripping on the dirty ground.

“They took her,” I whispered, realization dawning on me. Yes, that must be it. It was the only explanation. And it was because of me...

Dammit!

I clenched my fists, frustration, guilt, and anger overwhelming my body. The King seemed to have heard what I said for his head whipped to look at me with eyes clouded with anger.

“What do you mean? Who the fuck took her, Slifer!?” he spat, getting up to his full height. His tone made my shoulders twitch, but I conjured up whatever bravery I had left to look him in the eyes and dare to explain.

“The Wizard Hunters that were following me, they must have mistook the Princess for me—“

“Why would they mistake her for you!?” I was loudly interrupted, thankful that there weren’t people around hearing us.

Sighing, I crossed my arms over my chest, trying to tolerate his impatience. Well maybe if you let me fucking finish then you would know fucking why, you insolent fucking toddler!

Slightly irritated, I answered him. “I mean, her and I wore almost exactly the same cloak. When I was losing them, they must have found her instead of me.”

I tried my best not to add ‘Get it, you dipshit!?’ and I’ve successfully kept myself in check. Gods! Does he seriously run a country with this attitude?

However, no trace of anger was leaving his face and I was very startled when he let out a loud, almost animalistic growl. I kept thanking the stars because people were too far off to witness the kingly tantrum that was going on.

I don’t blame him for being angry though. I was pretty angry as well, both at those hunters and myself. If only I hadn’t let myself get noticed by those men. I shouldn’t have come to this fair in the first place.

“I will tear them limb to limb. I will make sure they would taste the wrath of my shadows,” as he declared those words, everything around us seem to darken. He himself, seemed to have shadows that enveloped him as well.

But to my surprise, he didn’t seem to blame me for this, even though I would have expected him to take this chance and insult me in any way possible. But he didn’t. He only let out his anger and determination through his eyes.

“I have a plan,” I stated, the same determination as him laced my voice and painted my face.

His eyes were still furious, his body still tensed. But he did manage to spare me a glance, his dark orbs travelling all over my face.

“What is it?” I don’t know why these three words felt as if they were heavy on his tongue, and the same words bewildered me that he was willing to listen.

Well...that was easy? I thought he would be more stubborn and refuse to acknowledge my thoughts.

“Well,” I cleared my throat. “By now, they would have figured out that the girl they took wasn’t me. And judging by the Princess’ belonging, they had carried her to the woods—“

I had to stop for a second for I couldn’t take the intense look he had on his face as he listened to me. It’s like every vibe of his being was paying attention to me, and I don’t know why that flustered me so much.

What the hell are you thinking of, Lydia? Now isn’t the time. And since when did I care if I had the King’s attention or not?

I mentally shook my head, drifting my eyes elsewhere and proceeded to tell him what I had in my mind. “Anyway, uh...where was I? Oh right, yeah, so I thought I would go alone in the forest, since they might still be there.”

“I mean, in any case the person they want is me so it would be like I’m exchanging myself for the Princess, but really you would be there too waiting to rescue her,” I added.

He looked like he was analysing my plan, thinking over it very carefully. I bit my bottom lip, feeling a bit nervous and the reason to me is completely unknown. I honestly looked like I was waiting for him to approve, and I actually kind of was.

“Look, I know it’s a risk to take, but it’s the only plan we’ve got.” I rubbed my hand over my upper-arm. “And this way is the only way back to the fair if you’re coming from the woods. I’ll be at the White Woman’s bridge since they’ll have to cross by it when they come back.”

He let out a heavy breath, running his hand through his black locks, making the hood fall back behind, exposing his head completely.

“Fine, we do as you say. But heed my words, Slifer. If anything happens to my sister I will make this the last day of your life, understood?” His face now was too close to mine, and his tone was as threatening as ever.

But somehow his words didn’t spark fear, it only made me more set on getting the Princess back. And with every bone of my body I will do whatever it takes to bring her back.

I will not let someone else suffer because of me. No, not anymore.

***

The forest was quite as usual. Nothing but the sound of bugs chirping and the leaves being blown by the wind. The top of the trees swayed underneath the starry sky, bringing a kind of peaceful atmosphere. I always found the forest at night to be enchanting and mystic. But this wasn’t the time to admire how majestic it was at that moment.

I sat on a rock a few feet far off the bridge, the low gentle sound of the river that was underneath it by a great and vast height keeping me company. The moon shone brightly in its full glory above me. And the wind played with my hair that was now loose and untucked.

I inhaled the fresh air that managed to cool my skin off, however little I could feel. A small, closed smile painted my lips and I found myself closing my eyes for a brief moment, trying to enjoy the slow wind that made my hair dance to its command.

But that moment was quickly over for I felt rather uncomfortable with remembering that the King was hiding somewhere in the shadows. I wasn’t alone. And I could feel his silver eyes lingering at me.

I stared at the grass beneath my feet, smoothing the skirt of my dress and twisting the hem between my fingers. I have been here for about five minutes and there was still no sign of those men and the Princess.

They should be here any minute now. This was the only road to go back to the fair, they have to pass by the bridge to get there.

I wonder what’s taking them so long. By now, they should have realized that who they took wasn’t me. Gods, I just hope they didn’t hurt the Princess in any way.

If they even lay a scratch on her, I will burn every single one of them very very slowly.

Distracting myself from the worrisome and murderous thoughts, I turned my face to look at the old, white bridge that was kept together by poorly-looking robes. This bridge looks like it could snap at any minute. I’m surprised it hadn’t yet since it was really old, no one even dares to cross it anymore.

It had a story to it and all. I don’t remember much of it since I learned about it in elementary school. But I think it was about a warrior woman who was blessed by the goddess of the moon, Aeon.

There was something about her dressing up in all white armour without having her armour stained with blood when she fought.

I think the story goes is that she was chased down to this very bridge by her enemies and she managed to kill every single one of them. But one of them managed to grab her and they both fell down to their deaths, and that’s why this bridge was named the White Woman’s bridge.

It’s kind of a cool story. Maybe someday legends will be told about me too, that is if I actually made ones.

The sound of mummers and a high pitched mewl startled me back into the present. I got off to my feet, my eyes inspecting my surroundings for the source of those sounds. The darkness of the forest prevented me from seeing anything past the tall trees, and I had to squint my eyes when shadowed figures were approaching this way.

The same man who had stopped me before was ahead of those figures, and he carried a very frightened Princess Lis by the hood of her cloak.

Behind him were his men, but somehow it seemed like their number has increased. There were about a dozen of them now.

Damn, were they that many? They must have been all around the fair.

She screamed and kicked the air with her feet, desperately trying to break free of the man’s strong hold. My eyes widened at the sight and I felt anger filling me at how helpless she seemed to be.

“Unhand me, you brut!” Her tone, though slightly shaken, held authority and her eyes showed nothing but determination. Although she was obviously scared, she didn’t let those men see that fear in her eyes.

Her shoulders jerked and shook as she attempted to let herself loose, but the man’s grip on her hood and arm was far too strong for her.

I could feel the air around us become thick with darkness, and I sensed the lingering fragrance of the dark, powerful magic behind it. A shiver escaped me when fury and wrath clouded the air, and I knew exactly who it belonged to.

From the corner of my eyes, not too far away from my right, there was a particular spot by the trees darker than the others. And I knew that the King was hiding there, his silver eyes trained on the scene before us.

The man snickered at the Princess’s failed attempts, looking down at her in sick amusement as he and his men neared the bridge.

“Let go of her. Now. It’s me that you want, right?” My voice rose loudly, cutting the silence that fell over us. The men immediately snapped their heads, their eyes landing on me.

“Well, well, if it isn’t our little lenses girl.” The man who was holding Lis smirked, tugging her small form closer to his chest.

“Lydia!? What are you doing here!? Go back, these men are dang—“ her voice was muffled by the man’s hand and it took all my might not to launch at him and burn his face.

I swear I could hear a low growl emanating right from that dark spot by my right, but it seemed like I was the only one that noticed it.

“She really talks a lot, don’t you think?” he snorted, his eyes lit with mischief. “And you two seem to know each other, eh?”

I didn’t answer him. I just kept my burning gaze focused on him, feeling my body grow hotter by the second. He looked at us then back to his buddies behind him, before turning back to me with a wicked grin that caused a very disturbing uneasiness to attack my being.

I don’t like the look on his face. Something’s up!

“Oh well, the more the merrier!” He tossed the Princess to his friend beside him like she was nothing but a useless, old sack. She yelped as the other man caught her and caged her once again in his hold.

I gritted my teeth, my body tensing and my fist clutched tightly that I could feel my nails slicing my palm.

“Let her go! It’s me that you want, not her!” I barked, trying to keep both my magic and my temper sustained.

He only laughed as he slowly approached me, sick and free of any humour. “Oh, why would I do that now, Lydia?” he dragged my name out, almost as if testing it on his tongue. “Pretty name for a pretty girl.”

Fire rapidly bubbled inside my chest, and I could feel my eyes flaming as if the flames within twisted and moved at the force of my anger.

The man stopped briefly in his steps, his face trained at my eyes. I saw the fear and shock slowly dominating in his black orbs, but he tried a great deal to keep his emotions from surfacing.

Before the man or I could do anything regarding our situation, a black smoke came bursting from one of the dark corners. The men before me jumped at the sudden appearance as the smoke lifted one of them into the air.

The thin-looking man covered with dark-blue lines screamed at the top of his lungs, begging the shadow to let him go. But it only whirled the defenceless man into the air and all the way to the bottom of the bridge.

A few seconds passed until we heard a loud splashing sound accompanied with the man’s piercing yell. Horror and panic now laced the men’s faces as the dark mist floated and swirled above their heads, as if deciding who it should pick up next.

“What the hell is going on here!?” the leader of the men shouted, twisting his body whichever way as his eyes shot wide open.

Then, he turned to me, furious. He grabbed me by the neck and pulled me towards him. My throat tightened and I clawed at his hand, trying to break it free from cutting off my air supply.

“Who the hell did you bring with you, bitch!?” he spat at my face, and despite my underhand position I managed to smirk up at him.

He growled at my reaction then sent my body to the ground, forcefully landing on my ribs. I winced at the pain but ignored it, glaring at the man who was now taking out his weapon from the leather strapped to his back.

It was a long staff coated with red gem stones, framed with small gold pearls. That thing must be what they use to extract magic power. He turned to the floating shadow and aimed the staff to the sky. With a roar; red, seemingly electrical tendrils burst from the tip of the weapon.

They attacked the smoke but it had managed to evade it. More strikes were unleashed and they followed the shadow whenever it went, but it avoided every single one of them swiftly and rather effortlessly.

The man growled in frustration, not one of his attacks managed to touch his foe. Before he could direct another hit, the smoke lifted another man and whirled him off the ground to the watery abyss of the bridge.

This triggered the man even further, and the next thing he did was to take hold of the Princess once again. He shoved the man who was previously holding her then backtracked with his staff near her chin. His eyes maddening with anger while he dared the shadow to touch him or one of his men.

The mist stilled, stopping completely. Then, for what seemed like a split second, it descended down to where I was currently lying, still haven’t gotten off the ground.

A figure of a man started forming as the smoke came closer to the ground. I saw the relief on the Princess’ misty eyes and the complete terror of the men as the body of King Gabriel stood towering before me.

“Release her this instant and maybe I shall consider sparing your life.” His tone was very calm yet no one could ignore the threat and lethality within.

The man before us gave out a dark chuckle, clearly trying to mask his fear as he pressed the tip of his weapon further to the Princess’s cheek. I could see how the King’s eyes darkened the closer that staff was to his sister.

“And who the fuck do you think you are? I`m not going to release her pretty ass anytime soon, so don’t think your little trick can scare me, demon!” His arm wrapped around the Princess’ neck tightly, causing her to let out a whimper.

The man seemed pretty satisfied at his words, believing he actually managed to silence his opponent. But little did he know that he has just dug his own grave, that the King’s silence was nothing but a mere mind-game.

“Men!” he barked at his followers, and the four men at each of his side steadied their similar weapons. “Show that bastard what’s it like to mess with us Wizard Hunters!”

They were about to fire when something suddenly stopped them. They all froze in their place, their arms and legs stilled like there was something invisible holding them down. Their fingers twitched, as if they fought to regain control of their limbs. And the weapons they had aimed at us didn’t release any bright, red sparks.

Their leader’s head whipped to both sides, his expression of confusion and impatience. “What the hell are you standing there for!? Fire!” He seemed to be the only one moving normally, but he had the Princess in his grip.

“We c-cant! We can’t move anything!” a man to his right exclaimed, panic taking over his features as he looked down at his body as if it was tied by unseen robes.

The King must have been using their shadows to control them. It’s actually quite impressive if you hadn’t been the object of his fury before. The leader turned to the King, his face livid. “You! What kind of trick are you using now!? Release my men, you devil!”

The King only smirked, slowly and wickedly.

It seemed like he was about to do something else for his eyes narrowed and his face turned back into a scowl. But something at the corner of my eyes brought my attention.

Behind the King, one of the hunters was slowly creeping in as he slithered from behind some bushes. The King didn’t seem to pay attention for he was busy with whatever thoughts he had in mind for the man holding his sister captive.

The other hunter had his weapon ready to strike the King any moment. And it was then that something within me ignited and sprawled to action.

“Watch out!” I cried at the top of my lungs, my arm extended before me as I launched at the man.

It all happened so fast. The moment I summoned my fire and let it consume me. It ignited and burst from my arm as I kicked my feet and leapt to place myself in front of the man.

With one blow, I directed a hit to his stomach, sending him literally flying to the air. He screamed as his entire body twirled backwards then his back collided with a giant tree trunk.

I watched—or we all watched that is—as he tumbled down completely unconscious. I stood there entirely stunned, shock spreading through my body. Was that me? Did I do that?

I turned my bulging eyes from the man’s body to the crackling fire that danced all over my arm. It drank in its entire length, all the way to my forearm, burning my sleeves off all the way to the elbow. It wasn’t just my hand or my fingers. They were hot, red blazing flames and they announced themselves so proudly. And I can even feel how stronger their force was.

I can’t believe it! I actually was able to throw a man halfway up the air like it was nothing!

It took me a couple of seconds to recover from my shock, turning to face the men who just witnessed my display of magic. Even the King was distracted by my action just now, and that distraction caused for the captive men to let loose.

They didn’t waste another moment for they quickly fired at us. The King turned himself into smoke again and dodged the attack by flying off.

I sprinted away, flipping and twisting my body at any hit that came at me. I ran as fast as I could towards one of the men, setting both my arms on fire. I turned my body to the right and dodged his attack, and with one swift movement I was at his side. My flaming fist came in contact with his jaw and his entire being twisted then landed on the ground.

I wasted no time in facing my next attacker. He used his staff as a sword and swayed it to my head. I ducked then rolled my body as he kept trying to hit me but got the ground instead.

I jerked my body up and kicked my feet off, then with a flip of my torso I used fire to give strength to my heel and kicked his stomach. He gagged and stumbled to the ground.

Something swift came pass me and I quickly turned my face to evade it. It seemed like it was a small dagger, and just as I thought a man was throwing daggers at me from a distance.

I formed a fire ball and threw it at him before he could release another blade. It made impact with his body and sent him flying somewhere deep in the woods. Another man with a sword drawn came at me from behind. He didn’t even get close enough to my breathing-zone before I flew him to the air with another fireball. Idiot!

I could see the King hovering above us. He dodged every single magic strike gracefully, driving the leader of the hunters insane as he continued to bark orders to his men.

Three men were doing as he said and unleashed whatever power they still had in attempt to bring down the King. I focused on the one in the middle, twirling a fireball between my fingers. And with a blow of my breath it jolted forward and hit him right in the chest.

I wanted to hit the other two men but my lack of attention got the best of me. I felt raging pain stinging my side as red tendrils collided with my body and sent me sprawling upwards.

A loud, pained yell escaped my lips as my body made impact on the hard ground. I groaned, the pain causing my eyes to go blurry for a moment. It felt like I’ve been hit repeatedly by a wave of lighting-bolts. And I bit my lip hard in order to subside the burning feeling.

Dammit! I better be careful!

I clutched my side and was quickly back on my feet. Exhaling huge breaths, I tried to focus on my next target.

It was then that I felt something hard press against my back, and I momentarily turned to see the King behind me. He was at my back, his attention taken by the three men who were approaching him on his side.

I tried to close my mouth but it gaped as if I was a fish. Am I really seeing this? Or was the King of Imarina helping me?

We were fighting.....together.

I shook my head, returning back to what was important right now. No matter how shocked or completely uncomfortable I was being practically crushed to his back, I can’t take my eyes off my main focus.

Men were creeping in on us on both sides, and we didn’t waste any second in taking them down. I shot fireballs, kicked, and punched until I was completely out of breath. Sweat framed my forehead. My hair was sticking to my face and my dress was dirty and torn at the hem. And my cream-colored cloak seemed to have lost its colour forever.

I huffed loudly, and it appeared as if I was the only one to do that for the King didn’t even break a sweat. Well, he is a king. This was probably a piece of cake for him while for me it was the biggest fight I’ve ever been into.

The hunters all dropped to our feet, not even moving a muscle. Now, only their leader was left. And he was looking down at his defeated men while shaking like a leaf.

“You people are crazy!” He shoved the Princess forward and she was about to fall straight to the ground but the King quickly caught her in his arms. The man sprinted towards the bridge like a scared chicken. Shit! He’s getting away!

“Oh no you dont!” I ignored the Princess’ cry as she called after me, running after him as quickly as my legs could carry me.

He was now halfway on the bridge and I wasted no time in getting on as well. The wooden planks underneath us shook, as if it was about to crack any second now.

“Get away from me!” he screamed, but managed to trip and fall over. That caused for the staff in his hand to roll over to the edge and fall down, making a sound as it hit the water.

“Stop moving!” I yelled at him, my hands gripping the old robes that held the bridge together. His constant movement made the bridge wobble, and I could hear the sound of wood breaking.

“No! Don’t come any closer!” he retorted when I moved one foot over a plank.

“You’re going to get us both killed, you fool! Turn yourself in and give up already!” I gritted my teeth, my nerves turning ablaze.

I looked down and I wish I hadn’t. I didn’t know that the abyss was so far away. The tides were violent and the river was surrounded with sharp rocky edges that no one would survive of. And if they do, they would be seriously damaged.

“Like hell I would do that!” He got off to his feet again and started turning around. But before he could take another two steps he stumbled over a half broken plank and fell down again, this time with more great force.

Oh shit!

“Lydia, get out of here!” Lis’ shout didn’t quite reach my ears for the only sound I could here was my heart thudding loudly in my chest. It managed to overwhelm the sounds of the planks breaking and the robes being ripped.

My legs lost all their balance and my hands lost something to hold on to. I was simply clutching the air. The ropes tore one by one until the bridge came crumbling entirely. It collapsed and my legs collapsed along with it, and both I and the man fell down to our deaths.

My lungs screamed. It was the only thing I could do. Scream. It was my only thought as I was met with nothing but darkness for I had my eyes shut. I could hear the man’s scream as well, and the sound of the furious water waiting to devour me. I felt my entire body go numb at the sensation of falling down.

So this was it, huh? This was how I was going to die?

Even though I had just started to become stronger. This was going to be my end. I’m never going to see Luxus or the Princess again, not even Ayana since I’ve had come to like her.

Well...at least I was going to see my grandpa.

I waited for that cold splash to assault my body. But it never came. I did hear it though, the loud sound of something joining the water. But I didn’t feel it. I only felt something lifting me up. But it had no hands or skin, just the feeling of something picking me up and letting me float in the air.

I had the courage to peel my eyes open, and the only thing I could see was black mist wrapping around my body, lifting me back towards the ground where Princess Lis stood with tears in her eyes.

Wait...don’t tell me...n-no way!

When he neared the ground, he transformed back into his human form. And he was carrying my body completely, one hand over my arm and the other one under my knees.

My cheek was crushed to his chest, my body cradled in his strong, oddly warm arms. I could feel his slow, gentle breathing as his chest rose steadily.

I could smell him, my nostrils filling with his musky smell that made a part of my mind go all fuzzy. I felt heat rushing to different parts of my body, mainly my face which matched the colour of the ribbon I had bought for Luxus.

He placed me back on my feet. My head was lowered, not having the guts to look him in the face and tell him these small two words. “Thank you”. I wasn’t even sure if he had heard them, but my tongue felt bitter as if I had said the nastiest words in the dictionary.

I don’t even know why I had said them. It just felt like the right thing since he did save my life. But it also felt very very uncomfortable.

I wasn’t even fully standing straight when the Princess threw her arms around me and sobbed to my shoulders. She held me tightly as if I was going to disappear any second now.

I felt warmth filling my body, but it wasn’t the kind were I felt as if fire was moving inside me. No, this warmth was soft, and it spread through my heart. This time, I actually returned the hug properly and not just a pat on the back. I wrapped my arms over her waist and pressed her closer to me.

She was so warm and her hair smelt like daisies. It made me smile.

“It’s okay. I’m glad you’re safe”. I whispered to her hair and we just stayed there for a couple of seconds before we pulled away.

She wiped the tears trailing down her cheeks with her fingers, smiling widely at us. I heard the King clear his throat from behind me, as if he wanted us to pay attention.

“What about your brother? Doesn’t he get a hug too?” His eyebrow was raised as he scratched the back of his neck. There was slight jealously in his tone that I could easily, and might I say surprisingly detect.

Looks like someone doesn’t like sharing...

Lis laughed at her brother’s words and shook her head “Why of course you do, brother.” She was about to move, and that’s when I noticed something moving in the bushes not too far behind her.

I don’t know why dread took over me at that moment but what happened next assured me why. It was in a split second that a man came bursting from the bushes.

He was one of those hunters, probably the last one standing. And he had a sword drawn as he launched himself at us, his weapon ready to tear through the nearest flesh which was the Princess.

“No!” It all happened so quickly. How I shouted that word at the top of my lungs and pushed the Princess out of the way. How none of us saw it coming and had the time to react. How the blade moved so fast that I was sure it would strike any one of us.

And how I managed to stop it by grabbing it by its sharp edge, making blood pool down from every part of my hand which the blade had sliced through. I let out a cry of pain, every part of my body wincing as I watched my blood roll down to my wrist and to the crook of my elbow, sliding warmly against my skin.

But I didn’t let the pain control me. I let it buried at the back of my head for a while and focused on igniting my flames once again.

Bright, sizzling fire formed at my hand. They were so hot that they managed to melt the steel, feeling it turning into liquid underneath my fingers.

The man’s eyes widened and his mouth gaped open. I smirked as I used my free hand to give him a powerful blow to his middle. It immediately made him cry out as his body backtracked and landed roughly on the ground.

I threw the melted sword away and looked down at my hand, cringing at the bloody site. My hand literally looked as if I had dumped it into a bucket full of blood.

“Oh my Gods, Lydia! Don’t worry, I’ll take care of this right away.” The Princess stood before me and started to inspect my hand.

For a moment I let her heal all the cuts that had formed, while I just stood there in my place gazing at the other side of the broken bridge. Tiredness and exhaustion slowly surfaced in my body, feeling as if I was carrying a pile of large rocks on my back.

Well, this was certainly an interesting night. I can`t wait to tell Luxus.

Hey everyone! If anyone is actually reading this, it would mean the world to me if you left your opinions below. I want to know what you guys think of the book and the characters, and whether I should keep posting here.

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