Pennie couldn’t believe that Sabra Blackwell, the leader of Destruction was in front of her. He stood there with a smile and clicked his fingers. Pennie gasped in shock as their surroundings began to distort. The shapes of the buildings, the ground began to warp until they disappeared and changed into something else. Instead of standing in the middle of the ruins they were near the edge of a cliff. Behind Sabra were hundreds of soldiers with blank expressions blocking their only escape path. Pennie turned to look behind her. The cliff was hundreds of meters from the ground, so high that she couldn’t see the bottom. A person would die if they fell into the forest below.
“No way, we walked right into a trap!” Lynx yelled, in shock.
“That’s right, I created the illusion of the ruins to be larger than what it was a directed you right into our ambush,” Sabra sneered. “You’ve been under my control since you arrived.”
“Crap, now what?” Dimetrios growled.
“Is there anything we can do?” Cianna asked, trembling like a leaf.
“We have no other option,” Kaela shouted, a voice filled with determination despite the situation. “We must fight a way through and look for an opening to escape and regroup.”
“Right!” Everyone yelled, preparing their stance for battle on Kaela’s order.
Sabra just smiled, unaffected by the fact that his plan had failed to discourage them. He clicked his fingers and ordered his men into battle.
“You know which ones I want alive,” Sabra said in a cool tone. “Attack them and kill the extras.”
The two sides ran to each other and engaged in battle. Pennie’s heart was beating so fast everything was nothing but a big blur to her. Shaking her head, knowing it was not the time to be afraid, Pennie began to summon Sean Shadowbuster.
“Oh no you don’t, we can’t have a summoner interfering,” Sabra growled clicking his fingers.
“Pennie look out!” Ray shouted.
A red flash of light blinded Pennie’s sight. She closed her eyes as someone pushed her and she fell onto her legs. Not a second later there was a loud explosion that mad Pennie’s ears ring. When she opened her eyes, she saw that Ray was kneeling over her. It only took her seconds to realise that Ray had pushed her out of the way and used his body to shield her from the explosion.
“Are you alright?” he asked, not looking at her but at the battle in front of them.
“Am I alright?! What about you?!” Pennie shouted, wondering why he would put himself in danger for her. “You just took most of that explosion!”
“Nah, I’m fine,” Ray claimed in a blunt tone as he looked at her. “I’m immune to explosion magic.”
“Oy you two, we could really use your help right now!” Dimetrios yelled, his voice booming through the crowd.
“Right,” Ray said as he got to his feet.
He reached out his hand to help Pennie but before she could grab his hand there was a loud cracking noise beneath their feet. They both looked down to find the ground crumbling into pieces. With a crumbling boom, the cliff fell apart, giving neither Pennie or Ray time to react. Screaming they began to hurtle towards the forest below. Everything went dark before Pennie even hit the ground.
Pennie opened her eyes slightly. She blinked in surprise when she realised, she had survived. When Pennie fell from the cliff, she thought that she was definitely going to die. Becoming more aware of her surroundings, Pennie realised that she wasn’t lying on the ground. Instead, there was something warm under her. Still in a daze, it took her several seconds before she realised that she was lying on top of Ray, with her head resting on his chest. She looked up at him, hoping he was okay. When she moved, Ray noticed and looked down at her and smiled. It was only slightly noticeable, but Pennie could see that there was a hint of pain in his eyes.
“Are you alright?” he asked.
Pennie, who finally realised how close they were, blushed and quickly got off of Ray.
“I-I-I-I’m f-f-fine!” she said quickly, stuttering with embarrassment.
Once she was sitting on her knees, Pennie noticed that she wasn’t injured apart from a few cuts and scrapes. With how high the fall was from she should have had at least a broken bone or two.
“Wait…” Pennie muttered, knowing that Ray must have broken her fall. “Forget about me, are you alright?!”
“I’m good,” Ray claimed sitting up. As he did a large amount of blood fell from his head and into his face. “I’m a ’okay.”
“You can’t say you’re okay when you’re bleeding like that!” Pennie yelled.
“Sorry, I just hit my head a little too hard,” Ray laughed awkwardly. “It doesn’t really hurt anymore, so I’ll manage.”
Pennie sighed too. She knew that Ray would never admit to being seriously injured so instead of arguing with him, she let it slide.
“Alright, I’ll believe you this time,” Pennie said, rummaging through her pale blue bag which was still slung across her body. “Hold on a minute.”
She grabbed out a small towel that she always carried with her and a selection of bandages to use depending on the size of Ray’s wound.
“What’s all that?” Ray asked.
“Just some stuff I keep on me for situations like this,” she replied, grabbing the towel and wiping the blood off his face.
“I can do that,” Ray said, attempting to grab the towel.
“No. I’ve got it,” Pennie claimed, her tone coming out a little harsh.
“Al-alright,” Ray muttered as his eyes blinked in surprise.
He looked shocked and a little bit upset which made Pennie feel guilty. She didn’t means to snap or sound rude, she just wanted to help his after he put himself in harm’s way just for her.
“Can I ask what happened?” Pennie asked, softening her voice.
“Well, as you know, after the explosion the ground collapsed from under us and we fell,” Ray explained. “You then passed out from shock, so I grabbed onto you and shielded you until we hit the ground.”
“So you took on the entire impact of the fall? Is that how you hit your head?” Pennie asked.
“Not exactly. One of the large pieces of the cliff actually hit me as we fell. It knocked me back towards some tree’s which I was able to grab onto to ease our momentum.” Ray replied.
“And what about the others?” Pennie asked.
“I don’t know. I think we were the only ones who f…” Ray began before flinching in pain. “…O-ow…”
Pennie had almost finished cleaning the blood and had reached the top of his forehead when Ray made a strange noise. Pennie pushed his hair back to find a cut about five centimetres long at the top of the left side of his forehead. It didn’t seem very deep but just above it was a dark purple bruise that went up into his hairline.
“Sorry, that looks really painful,” Pennie said with a worried expression, holding the towel on the cut in a clump to stop it from bleeding. “Are you sure you are okay? You could have a concussion.”
“It’s fine,” Ray claimed.
“As long as you’re sure,” Pennie said, still a little worried about Ray. “Could you hold the towel there while I get the bandage ready?”
Ray nodded and followed Pennie’s instructions. Pennie grabbed one of the large rectangle band aids. Making sure none his hair was in the way she asked Ray to move the towel and placed the band aid over the wound.
“Thanks,” he said, as Pennie let go of his hair and it fell back into place, covering the band aid. “Okay, now let me do you.”
“But I’m fine,” Pennie claimed as Ray moved closer to her.
“But you have all these scrapes and…” Ray insisted.
“No, that’s fine, I’m not bleeding or anything,” Pennie interrupted, shaking her hands in protest. “You don’t need to go out of your way to help me any more than you already have.”
Ray sighed and got to his feet, staggering slightly.
“Are you sure?” he asked once more as he looked down at her. “You helped me, naturally I want to return the favour.”
“It was the least I can do all things considering,” Pennie claimed. “I mean I’d probably be dead if it wasn’t for you. So… thank you.”
“Don’t worry about it, the last thing I want is for you to die,” Ray muttered, looking away from her.
“Wait, what was that?” she asked, wondering if she heard him correctly.
“Never mind, it’s nothing,” Ray claimed, getting to his feet. He then reached out his hand to help Pennie. “Should we get going now? We need to find a way out of this forest and meet up with the others.”
“Okay,” Pennie said as she grabbed onto his hand. “They are probably worried about us. I hope they managed to get away from Sabra and the army.”
“Yeah…” Ray sighed.
They walked for several minutes in silence. The forest was actually quite beautiful. Pennie was amazed by how it was full of life and colour as the nice warm sun shone through the trees. As birds chirped in the distance she took a deep breath, the smell of moss and miscellaneous herbs mad made her feel calm. If Pennie didn’t know any better, she never would have thought that they were on a life-threatening mission that had gone wrong. Her peace of mind only lasted a few minutes more before reality came crashing back to her and her mind filled with questions.
“Ray, do you mind if I ask you some questions?” Pennie asked, breaking the silence.
“Sure, it shouldn’t be a problem,” Ray said, his reply slightly delayed. “What did you want to ask?”
“Well, I guess I was wondering why Sabra and the army set that trap,” Pennie said. “They seemed quite powerful so they could have taken the capital city if they wanted to.”
“I’m not so sure about that. If they attacked the army would have the MLC, the CSOG and the Starlight Knights to deal with. A trap probably the best way to deal with troubling enemies. Especially if the MLC sent the Starlight Knights instead of us,” Ray claimed, keeping his focus on the path ahead. “Although I have to admit, it almost like they were waiting for us. Like they knew we were coming.”
“Then does that mean there’s a traitor in the MLC? Was it really the Aria army that attacked us or just Destruction? And why did Sabra come to greet us personally? Why did he team up with the Earl of Aria?” Pennie asked, speaking really fast. “Who is the Earl of Aria anyway? And why are they attacking us now of all the times they could have done it.”
“Wow, that’s a lot of question at once,” Ray smiled at her awkwardly. “Let’s see if I’ve got this. There is always the possibility there is a traitor or even a spy in the MLC, it’s just a natural assumption. We were attacked by the Aria army because of the Armor they were wearing, in fact, I believe Sabra was the only member of Destruction present. There are many possibilities for his appearance. He either confident in his victory or is attempting to steer out attention away from the Earl. Do you follow me so far?”
“I think so,” Pennie stated.
“Sabra’s reason for joining forces with the Earl of Aria is most likely strength in numbers. Which also means the members of Destruction are waiting somewhere for orders,” Ray continued. “As for the Earl of Aria, I’ve heard that he was once a cruel leader, who only came into power at the end of the Eighty Year War. It was a behaviour that ran in the family but he apparently turned into a pacifist during these times of peace. Aleron once told mem that he had gone loopy after losing his whole family and is a strange old man. Who knows what agreement he made with Sabra? Then again, it’s also likely that he’d been replaced, which would explain the sudden violent change.”
“Wow, you almost answered every question,” Pennie exclaimed, surprised that Ray actually heard everything she said. “But you didn’t say anything about their reasons for attacking Luminea.”
“That’s because I don’t know,” Ray stated, thinking deeply about Pennie’s question. “It doesn’t make sense to me.”
“Really? Why’s that?” Pennie asked.
“The fact that no one knew it was the Aria army until recently is strange. What’s even stranger was there were cities in Aria that were attacked before they reached Luminea,” Ray explained. “If the Earl decided to attack, surely all of Aria would have known. It also doesn’t make sense that the Earl would attack his own country. He must be involved since we were just ambushed by the Aria army but it’s almost like the Earl isn’t the one in charge.
“But how could…” Pennie began before a rustling in the trees interrupted her.
Frightened that someone was watching them, Pennie moved closer to Ray, who had also noticed that something wasn’t right and stopped walking. By the look on his face and the way his eyes darted from side to side, Pennie knew they weren’t alone.
“Well, what do we have here?” a man’s voice echoed through the trees.
Pennie and Ray looked up to find a man sitting above them on a tall tree. He had dark brown hair and dark green eyes. He wore a long pale brown jacket and blue jeans. With a smirk, he jumped out of the tree and landed perfectly on his feet.
“It’s been quite a long time, hasn’t Ray?” he said, his deep and well-spoken tone making Pennie’s heart beat fast in her chest. “I didn’t expect to run into you here, regardless it’s nice to see you alive and well. Tell me, what have you been up to these days?”
“Ray, do you know this guy?” Pennie asked, confused why the man was talking so casually.
Ray said nothing but shook his head. He didn’t avert his gaze from the man. One look at Ray and Pennie knew he was almost as tense as she was.
“Come now, what’s with the cold look?” the man chuckled, his voice like nails on a chalk board. “Aren’t you glad to see me? Surely you remember who I am?”
“No, I have no idea who you are or what you’re talking about,” Ray stated sharply.
“Aww, don’t be like that,” the man sighed. “We used to so close. How could you forget about me?”
Ray stayed quiet. He continued to stare at the man who claimed to know him with confusion, his shoulders stiff and his hands clenched into fists.
“I see. It would seem your memories really were wiped clean. I must say I’m a little disappointed,” the man said with a sad smile. “I had my hopes up that they would have returned but I guess not.”
“What do you want with us?” Pennie worked up the courage to ask.
“Well, I had hoped for Apollo to have awakened by now, but I suppose you’ll have to do Ray,” the man continued, ignoring Pennie. “So, what do you say? Would you like to join me in my quest?”
“Really, and what would that be?” Ray asked, keeping his distance from the man.
“To achieve world domination under the name of the Dark Shadow,” the man replied. “Which in turn means annihilating all of Le Alba.”
“Why would I do that?” Ray growled, preparing his stance for battle. “Something like that is just awful, so I’d suggest you’d leave us alone.”
“Now, now. There’s no need to get feisty,” the man frowned. “I could really use your help you know. With your power, everything will be so much easier. If you agree you could have anything you want. We can even make sure no one suffers if you’re so against these evil acts. Come now, why would you refuse such a wonderful offer?”
“I don’t know why, but I know I don’t believe a single word that’s coming out of your mouth,” Ray yelled, running toward the man with his fist covered in flames. “I would never join someone like you!”
Ray jumped into the air and went to punch the man. However, before he could land a hit the man disappeared. Ray’s eyes went wide as he looked around to find where the man had vanished to.
“Brayden! How dare you talk that way to someone who’s offering you the chance of a lifetime?!” the man bellowed, suddenly appearing behind Ray.
“What the….?” Ray growled as he turned around.
The man did not attack Ray but turned to Pennie instead. Pennie froze when a huge evil smile appeared on his face.
“I know, as punishment I’ll kill this little friend of yours,” the man stated as pitch-black energy began to circle around him. “Maybe then you might listen to me.”
The man’s magic hurtled towards Pennie. She didn’t have time to scream, Pennie couldn’t do anything but close her eyes. Even though she told her body to move several times, she was stuck on the spot. There was a loud booming noise and Pennie opened her eyes. Ray was in front of her, using his left hand to knock the spell out of the way. Along with the flames he used to dispel the man’s magic, the black power vanished revealing the glowing mark on Ray’s hand.
“As long as I’m here and conscious I won’t let you touch her,” Ray stated, his voice shaking slightly.
“That look is priceless!” the man laughed. “There you are trying to put on a brave face but I can see right through that.”
His laughter was so loud and deep that it sent chills down Pennie’s spine. Ray took a step back. She didn’t notice it before, but Ray was trembling slightly. She couldn’t tell if it was in pain, but he also looked pale as he clicked his tongue and clenched his fists.
“But you know,” the man continued as he stopped laughing. “It’s nice to know that some things never change. Even without your memories, you are the same old Ray, protecting those he cares about without a second thought.”
The man’s eyes darted to the mark on Ray’s hand. Then to Pennie then shifted his focus back to Ray.
“Unfortunately, it seems most of your power has yet to return as well. If it had I probably wouldn’t stand a chance against you,” he claimed with a disappointed smile. “As you are right now, I doubt you’d be able to help me, so I guess I’ll be taking my leave for now.”
The man turned away from them placing his hands in his pockets. Pennie couldn’t wait for the man to disappear, but the man turned back around with a dark smile, making Pennie freeze and Ray make a swallowing sound.
“Oh, I almost forgot. Since your memory of me is gone I suppose I should introduce myself,” the man said. “You may not remember but you should have at least heard my name before. The name’s Darkyn, otherwise known as Darkyn the Dark Oviri.”
Pennie couldn’t believe what she was hearing, she didn’t even want to think it was possible. However, just by witnessing the extraordinary dark power the man possessed she knew that he wasn’t lying. He smiled at their reactions his eyes glaring at them with evil intent.
“Well, I’m off now. Ray, you should really reconsider my offer,” Darkyn said as he turned away, waved his hand and vanished into the void of trees. “I’ll be waiting to hear your response. Oh, and if you get in the way of my plans, I will make sure to destroy everything you care about.”
Pennie and Ray did nothing as they watched Darkyn disappear. As soon as his power vanished, Ray lost his balance and fell backwards, landing in a sitting position with his legs out in front of him and his hands on the ground.
“Holy cinders on toast,” he muttered as his body began to shake more. “Did that really just happen?”
“R-Ray are you alright?” she asked still feeling frightened as well.
When she walked up to Ray, she could see the petrified expression on his face. She had never seen him look so afraid before.
“I don’t know if I am…” he said, grabbing onto his shaking left arm and looked down at his feet.
“Surely he couldn’t have known you right?” Pennie said, sitting next to him.
“I don’t know, but my body has never reacted to anyone like this before,” he claimed, digging his nails into the dirt. “I just can’t shake this feeling that I know that terrifying power and that’s what frightens me the most.”