Lale stood on the mountain peak. The harsh wind and snow combined for a sharp sensation on her face’s perfect skin. She meditated calmly sitting in the snow. Ignoring the pain and numbness that over time seeped through her armor and touched her nerves.
She thought of Pratham. Lale’s fist clinch, jaw tighten. Scowling at the horrors she witnessed as a child. The screams filling her head. It was constantly with her. She carried the pain always. It was her ultimate weapon. She reminisced over the sight of the planet from a far. Allowing the emotions to fill up her mind.
Lale stood to her feet ready to resume her training. She practiced her martial forms, the treacherous climate increasing the difficulty. Each step in the deep snow felt like someone was attempting to hold her legs in place.
The wind so strong, it nearly restricted her movements. Just standing still was a vigorous chore, controlled movements would be nearly impossible for someone of lesser discipline. So many things flooded her mind. Between the elements and her thoughts, it became difficult to focus. But she persevered.
Every step, block and movement were precise and deliberate. Her posture perfect. She never lost her balance despite the weathers commanding efforts. Lale propelled herself into the air. Her skills were unparalleled when incorporating acrobatics into her forms.
After a twirling flip she landed flawlessly without one small puff in the snow. “Vanakan must have given the child the red Iku.” She thought, slowly sweeping her leg through the heavy snow. Lale came up quickly, serving two punches to the air. “No one has ever survived the blending. Especially a child. I’ve killed her.” She thought, trying to remain focused on her form.
Her heart ached at the thought of Dara never waking up. “I can’t tell him the truth. He will figure out how much I’ve been hiding.” Lale continued to contemplate her next move while extrapolating the discourse she had created between Fei and herself.
She knew Fei would without a doubt react negatively. “If Dara survives, he’ll kill her. I can’t let him do that. But she would be and uncontrollable risk in our future plans. He would be right to fear her potential. I can’t confess how much I’ve kept from him.” Lale thought aloud. “The mission, the raw Iku, Dara. It will all be too much.” She said.
As she maneuvered through the thick snow, she noticed the air becoming unnaturally warmer. She rested for a moment. Breathing heavily through her armor’s adjusted mask, ensuring the altitude would not hinder her training.
Taking notice of her surroundings, Lale could sense something different in the air. It wasn’t just the temperature increase, something was changing. The sun reappeared, peering through the shroud the clouds provided. She hadn’t seen Tetcht’s sun since she arrived at the mountain over a month ago.
Still, it would be highly unlikely for the sun’s heat to penetrate this storm so easily. The wind began to pick up causing Lale to lose her footing. She withdrew her crescent shaped sword and plunged the blade into the ground.
Shiny shadowy jewels lining the hilt peeking through her fingers as she gripped it tightly. She kneeled, wrenching her hands tighter to avoid getting blown over. The wind prevented her from holding her head up to see before her.
“Help Me!!!!” A small voice shrieked. She was unable to see where the origin of the scream was coming from. Blinding light breaking through, causing Lale to cover her eyes. A small figure approached, most likely producing the illumination and the overcast of the storm.
The brightness even rivaling that of the sun. Lale concluded it must be responsible for the dramatic temperature change. Still she could not get a solid view of the object nor the individual crying out for aid.
The heat emanating from the host began to melt her armor. Her mask’s protection dripping away exposing her face to the contradictory elements. The voice continued to request aide.
Begging for someone to provide rescue. “Ugh!” Lale screamed in frustration, unable to move or even protect her own wellbeing. The air around her began to grow thin and whisked in the direction of the presence as if being called.
Retracting the elements to its will. Finally, the scene became instantly still. Lale looked up for only one second to recognize the figure. With no time to react, a powerful blast of scorching red energy released.
Lale was blown from atop the mountain into the uncertainty of the storm. The wind swirled around the figure, screaming in agony, as the blast sent a shockwave across the planet and reverberated the chilling sounds with it.
In the city, the citizens continued to work. The exterior of the Protector had been reformed and reinforced. Most of the people inside preparing for the impending seasonal storm.
Fei too inside, singing a song taught to him days ago by one of the children. Fei’s armor instantly materialized. Communicat-ing to his senses to become heightened. Fei reached out through his link to feel Lale in immediate danger. He couldn’t hear her voice calling out.
Or identify any signs causing her distress. He could only feel the heat. Finally, their link cut out. The power of the blast arrived. The initial quakes subtle until the gale of wind and scorching heat followed. Citizens outside were blown around, their skin burned. The Protector withstood the initial blast, but many citizens were harmed from the violent push.
Materials were flung around, as everyone ducked for cover. As the event subsided, Fei tried again to reach out to Lale. The citizens rushing inside the Protector fearing the worst was yet to come. Fei was slightly in a daze.
Slowly regrouping he could feel the power of its echo heading their way. “Brace for impact!” He warned. The citizens scrambled to a safe place inside. Those outside desperately praying the cover they chose was resilient enough to protect them, afraid they didn’t have time to run for the safety of the Protector.
“Seal the door behind me!” He ordered to the nearest citizen. Fei’s armor dissipated as he exited the Protector. Once outside he witnessed the final remnants of the city scurrying to safety.
His body grew rapidly, limbs stretching and popping into an abnormal arrangement. His teeth lengthened. This trans-formation was different. More ferocious. Long razor-sharp nails dug into the ground as four paws landed on the surface.
His hair becoming course taking the style of a mane. Mouth becoming slightly elongated. A tail protruded just above his rear end. His body grew reaching heights above the wall, leveling out at around 25 feet high. Strong build and golden fur. Fei roared as his primal form transformation was complete.
In his most powerful form, he would lose many of his more sophisticated sentient thoughts. A majestic lion, the size the citizens had never imagine possible. His senses would take the forefront of what would be his decision making.
Fei leaped over the walls and out of the city, speeding toward the incoming blast. He could cover 10’s of miles in one stride. His fear of what may have happened to Lale fueling each step. A distance that would take days in their ships, condensed into minutes in this form. Up ahead Fei could see the second wall of wind and fiery energy accompanying it.
As the blast finally reached him, Fei was launched into the air and thrown several feet. After the initial force, there was only silence a is continued on its course until it would ultimately fade out. Fei shook off the confusion and returned to his mission.
His pace quickened, dashing toward the last direction Lale’s link led him. Finally, he reached the colossal mountain penetrating the clouds. He made short work of scaling the mountain. Fei approached the top, reducing himself into his less animalistic feral form. In this size he could reform his armor.
The mountain was quiet. The snow melted away, rocks singed and only a sizzling sound all around him. A thick layer of smoke covered the area. Fei silently stalked about. His eyes unable to see through the smoke.
His senses heightened. Any movement other than his, he was prepared to strike a deadly blow. A twitch caught his ears. Through the smoke he could only make out a small frame getting up from the ground. Fei took One step at a time not producing a sound. His large body silent as if his feet never met the ground.
Fei drew closer, able to see the figure more clearly. Her blond hair exposed through black gases. “Dara?” He questioned the familiar figure. The little girl’s eyes met his face. She smiled wirily, before the smile faded into fear.
Tears of blood leaked from her eyes. Fire engulfed her eyes and hair. Her body began to take on the blinding light. Fei felt her heartbeat dramatically increase. Excitement exploded into terror. “Please help me!” She cried out. Fei’s armor began to melt. He protected his eyes from the sight of her. His mind quickly remembered the feeling back inside the city.
Acting on instinct Fei lunged forward and struck a blow to Dara’s abdomen. Her winded body fell into his arms, gasping for air as she was rendered unconscious. Fei held her close, as the two slowly stooped to the ground. Her skin was hot to the touch.
The amount of energy he had exerted from his race to the mountain left him exhausted. Cradling Dara, he looked around. “Lale? Lale?!......Lale!?” No response followed. Looking down at the child trying to piece together what transpired. “Lalen!.........Lalen!” Fei called out.
Holding Dara close, he gathered to his feet. “Lale, please answer me!” He reached out through their link. Still no response. Fei couldn’t feel her connection anymore. Only himself, only the heat radiating from Dara’s body.
Trying again he, attempted to hone his senses to feel for Lale. Fei pushed his senses to the limit. He could smell the storm brewing in the distance, the sizzling of the ground, the power emanating from Dara. But nothing from Lale.
His face twitching, teeth lengthening, tears welling in his eyes. Fearing he would wake Dara, he refrained from allowing his emotions to get the better of him. Suppressing his anger and anxiety. Fei started down the mountain to seek shelter from the storm. The wind picked up, with heavy rain shortly after.
In his feral form he was sure footed, making it nearly impossible for him to slip. The torrential downpour making his descent more of a nuisance than difficult. Finally, he found a hollow opening in the mountain.
His feline eyes transitioning to make the dark areas visible, accompanied by his senses to protect him from any falls or jagged edges that could put Dara at risk. Fei sat with his back against the chilling stone, deactivating his armor and slowly allowing his body to return to his normal form.
Fatigue set in. His hands and arms still strongly holding Dara as she remained unconscious. He thought of Lale. Is she alright? Where did she go? Why isn’t she responding to his call or the fact he couldn’t feel her presence anymore? The thunder penetrated the cave’s seclusion.
Almost shaking the old stone around him. Dampness in the air, water seeping from the dagger shaped cones above. Silence again. Just his heavy breathing and the small inhales and exhales of Dara.
Fei rested his head against the uncomfortable wall. He knew he needed to rest before attempting a journey back to the city. The storm would make it difficult to travel while he was beat. A couple tears slid down his cheeks as he finally drifted off to sleep.
Fei’s dreams were rarely coherent. Usually, violent, turbulent and hard to focus. His dreams settled on the battlefield during one of the battles on Pratham. Chaos surrounding him. Ships flying overhead, blaster fire striking true, ending the lives of many soldiers on both sides.
Fei soars through the field slaying many of his foes. His feral form more than capable to disarm and destroy the army of men before him. Brandishing his mighty black pole halberd with ease, he eliminated countless enemies under the A-Kialle clan banner.
His swings were strong and precise. Twirling his weapon to block incoming attacks that would have otherwise struck him easy to hit frame. His prowess in battle was liken to legendary tales.
Fei was the perfect warrior. He loved the feeling of destroying his enemies. Roaring in delight as he traversed the mass scale battle, wiping out the frontline troops. He let out a roar causing some soldiers to abandon hope and flee.
The Xeriel army behind him, willing him on through their supportive cheers and war cries. Fei stood amidst the chaos, idol, roaring, and undefeated in combat. The A-Kialle tribe slowly back pedaling in retreat momentarily, none willing to answer the challenge.
Until she arrived. Under the bright sun he saw her. Peeling through the crowd of A-Kialle troops, making way for her to engage the enemy. Their courage was renewed as she prepared to confront the Beast of Xeriel.
Their roots and chants pushing her forward toward his position. Fei was used to warriors finding the courage to engage in a duel with him. However, they usually didn’t last very long. He was confident that this encounter would be the same as all the others.
The warrior possessed no armor as she trotted through the sea of soldiers. Yet her skin remained unscathed. Not an imperfection in sight. She stood solely before the Xeriel army and its greatest champion.
Fei motioned his hand onward. Tens of soldiers charged toward the lone challenger. With only her crescent sword at her side, she engaged the Xeriel troops. In mere seconds she dismantled her foes to the delight of her A-Kialle brigade and the intrigue of Fei.
She crossed the battlefield and incapacitated a few more soldiers to reach him. Before he could speak, she attacked him. Fei defended himself unsuccessfully, as she easily broke through his guard and leveled him with the bunt of her sword.
Lale finally activated her armor and prepared for their proper duel. Behind her a Xeriel soldier attempted to attack. Fei recovered and leaped forward plowing his claws through his own soldiers’ chest. Fei valued his precious duels more than anything. He was interested in testing this warriors’ limits, even at the cost of his own troops.
Lale was confused at his actions. She readied her blade and proceeded to commence their second bout. Fei held off her barrage of attacks, struggling to find an opening to restrain her.
He wanted to prove he was the better warrior, but for the first time he was unsure who the better warrior was. Fei had been hailed the perfect warrior, yet she seemed more perfect in every way. More refined and elegant as her actions mimic a sort of dance.
He couldn’t deny her beauty. Her grace in battle as magnificent as her appearance. Her movements were fluid and flowed as if she knew every counter he could think of. Troops on both sides refused to join the fray, everyone in awe of such a contest of might.
Nor were they willing to risk their life, no matter if it means winning the battle. As their fight continued, Lale gained ground on Fei. Managing to land clean punches to his face, enraging him. Fei realized in his normal form he would have been no match for her. Yet, even in his feral form she did not falter. The two warriors battled across the field.
Before long Fei made one mistimed counter strike and he was officially subdued. Her blade stopped just at his neck, deliberately she pressed the blade against his throat. Applying enough pressure to draw blood. He gazed into her eyes.
Daring her to complete her duty. The battlefield in great uproar, but between the two of them, they could only hear and see one another. Only they existed in the universe. He could feel her hesitation. For every step he took toward her, she would retreat, maintaining the blade against his throat.
She forcefully pushed her palm against his chest. His armor responded. Pulsating to her touch. He never wanted to look away. Every second lost away from her eyes would feel like a lifetime of distress.
Lale refused to retreat any further, but he would not halt. Fei reached behind her, seized the small of her back. Fei pulled her close to his body. Her scent driving him crazy. He cared not about anything else.
He only wanted to bask in her presence forever. The war no longer mattered, the passion of fighting no longer mattered. Just her. She stared up into his eyes. The chaos surrounding them all but disappeared. “Retreat!” She ordered to her army.
“I know you were almost left on Earth”. A small voice disrupted his dream. Fei awoke to the total darkness. His body naturally responded to reliving part of the war, transforming into his feral form as he slept.
A part of him wishes he could return to that day, if only just to hold her again. Dara sat crossed legged a few feet in front of him. Fei’s senses did not detect an agitation in her heartbeat. She appeared in control. Too in control. “How long have you been awake?” He asked.
“A while.” She answered nonchalantly. Fei gathered himself and started to explore. “I can create fire.” Dara offered. She closed her eyes and held her hand up. A flicker of light materialized on her palm before blowing out. Fei saw her powers manifesting.
He watched closely, noticing her focus. Dara’s eyebrows sunk in deeper, her jaw tight. A second spark transpired and next a small fire in her palm. Dara’s smile was perfectly lit by the flame.
Fei returned to his previous spot and settled down. “I got it covered.” She said smiling, eager to show her power. Fei nodded in approval. “Do you know where Lale is?” He asked, reminding himself of the dream. Dara shook her head in denial.
“After I drank the Iku, I couldn’t move. I couldn’t open my eyes. But I could hear her voice.” Dara answered. The curling of Fei’s mouth revealed his thoughts. “Is that not normal?” She asked innocently. Fei slightly squinted at her ignorance. “No. I’ve never heard of that happening before. Ever.” Fei responded quietly.
Dara shrugged her shoulders. “Lale told you about Earth?” He asked. Dara nodded, holding the fire in her palm and while playing with it with her free hand. “A little. About Earth and Pratham. But mostly she would sing.” Fei smiled at the thought of Lale’s voice.
“She had the most beautiful voice.” He said after an elongated exhale. Fei spotted the two bracelets on Dara’s wrist. “So, you don’t remember what happened at the top of the mountain?” Fei inquired. Dara nodded as she began to manipulate the fire to interweave through her fingertips.
“No, I do. I could see everything but, I don’t really know how to control my abilities. Before I knew it. I could feel the fire spreading.” Dara’s eyes filled with water. “Don’t cry. Fear is not in your blood. Get rid of it.” Said Fei.
Dara wiped her eyes, clearing the streaks down her cheeks. “She said that to me too.” Dara said, above the noise of her sniffle. “I’m sure, I’m the one to whom she first said it.” Fei looked off into the darkness. “Her armor melted before the blinding light. Then I woke up to you.” Dara continued.
Fei tried to detect a deviation in her heartbeat. Still nothing. She was telling the truth. “I can’t feel her connection anymore. She can’t be gone.” Fei contemplated. Dara approached him. “Maybe she is sleeping or knocked out.” Dara surmised. Fei fiercely shook his head. “That wouldn’t matter. Our link is deeper than that. It is an absolute connection. Only broken if.”
He stopped mid-sentence. “Maybe things are different on this planet. Or maybe, she found a way to turn it off.” Dara suggested. Tears formed in Fei’s eyes. Dara wiped his eyes with her free hand.
“What would Lale say about sadness?” Dara asked. Dara’s eyes beginning to mimic his own. Fei raised his arm to allow her to sit next to him. Dara tucked herself close to Fei. She could feel Fei’s chest tighten as he tried to hold back his emotions. The two sat quietly.
“I’m sorry.” Dara whispered. Fei gently held her little face to his direct line of sight. “This is not your fault. Don’t ever think otherwise.” She accepted his words, resting her head on his chest. Dara quickly drifted off to sleep.
Fei carried Dara down the mountain the next morning. At the foot of the mountain he noticed the melted hole in Rose. To his surprise upon entering the ship, it was still operational. Most of it was melted, the ceiling and part of the flooring was damaged, but would still be able to make the journey back to the city.
Waving his hand, he prepared a place to lay Dara down. Fei sat in the pilot chair. He observed Dara as she slept. His thoughts weighed heavy on his love. Feeling the pain return, he tried his best to keep his composure.
Suddenly, he caught the scent of Iku. But it smelled slightly dissimilar. Fei heightened his sense of smell, allowing it to guide him to the source. In the back of the ship, he stood at the origin of the aroma. But nothing was there.
The damage reveling the lower cargo space, but nothing out of the ordinary besides the abnormal scent. He tried waving his hand to reveal the source, to no avail. He activated his armor and attempted the gesture a second time. Still nothing.
He thought for a moment. “Rose reveal precious cargo. Authorization code: Cung Legoneirt!” Fei ordered, but Rose did not respond. He leaned against the ship wall, staring at Dara. His head tilted slightly. Fei returned to the pilot seat.
“Show me recording of Lale and Dara.” Fei requested. Still nothing. “Show me the last recording you have.” He requested again. Finally, Rose responded, pulling up a holovid. A weary and groggy Dara levitating just above where Lale laid her.
Her body jolting upward. Fiery red energy covering her body, the flames burning bright, melting away the ship’s interior. Dara flew out of the exposed ship before the video feed cut.
Fei returned to the rear of the ship. Waving his hand toward himself. The platform holding Dara transported her directly to him. Fei took her hand and repeated the gesture he had just made. Nothing revealed itself.
Tapping her wrists together, her new sky-blue armor and helmet cover her body. Purple fire crackled, spouting from her forehead. Repeating the gesture, her armor responded, a feint pulse to the touch. Fei waved away Dara and the ship obliged.
Fei used his nails to cut through the ships already damaged haul. Slowly as not to wake up Dara, he scaled deeper and deeper until he felt it. A tough resistance. “Rose, activate chamber protocol around Dara.” Fei ordered. A thin soundproof layer of material covered Dara while she slept.
Fei angrily plunged his hand through the deep incision and yanked the flooring up. The crate sat in one of Lale’s secret compartments. He opened the crate, unsure what he had uncovered. Its content sectioned into two sides.
Writings on an 8 inch by 8-inch crystal material from Pratham. Fei could deduct the information to be formulas, instructions and progress notes. On the other side, he saw the Iku. But it wasn’t in its natural red color. Three green liquid filled vials sat holstered in the right side of the metal crate.
Fei retrieved one vial and took a small whiff. He confirmed the base scent to be Iku, yet it had been altered. It smelled rawer than the red version, a much more pungent odor. He returned the vial to its holster.
Fei rummaged through the Pratham progress notes, coming across a header. “The Next Step.” Fei returned the crate to its formerly hidden location and took to the pilot’s chair for the voyage home. “Rose, return to the city, and begin death procedures. Begin transfer of charge to me.” Fei ordered plotting the course for their return to the city.
The ship instantly denying his request via the navigation screens. “Who is the current charge post death procedure?” He asked puzzled by Rose’s refusal. To his dismay the small image of Dara appeared. Fei’s lip, curled, his palm clinched on the shifter. His heart feeling like it had fallen out of his chest. “Cancel my request. Return us to the city.” He growled.
The Sentry stood guard at the city entrance. All 19 members were alive and present as ordered. Fully armored and waiting patiently for their Sovereign’s return. Their armor appearing as if they had experienced a small battle, but they remained poised and showed no signs of lethargy.
The damaged ship approached the city. The opaque cube disappeared around the only two occupants. Upon their visibility, the Sentry kneeled. Dara retrieved the shard and placed it on her wrist. Fei noticed, fueling his annoyance even further.
“Where is the Empress?” Sentry 19 questioned. The distress poured out of Fei’s posture. Dara reacted quickly. “She is on an observe and report mission for our Sovereign leader, the Empress may be gone for a while.” Dara answered, thinking she had done a good deed.
The Sentry made way for the royal pair to enter the city. Dara walked closely behind Fei. She began to realize the sound his feet were making as he strode forward. She wasn’t sure, but she was beginning to feel something was wrong.