As the Sun Set
It almost took an hour before they managed to break through and run away from Sabra and the Aria army. It was extremely difficult for Kaela, keeping at a pace that Cianna could keep up but fast enough not to let their pursuers catch them. Eventually, they found a cluster of vines spread across the remains of a building and hid from the army. They kept hidden for another hour, which led to Sabra giving up and returning to the castle where they were stationed. By the time they came out of hiding the sun had already begun to set.
“We need to go find Ray and Pennie now!” Noah yelled, still threating over what happened.
“I agree, with a fall like that they’ll need to be healed,” Cianna said with a worried expression.
’We can’t,” Kaela sighed. “We don’t have time.”
“What do you mean we don’t have time?! They could be in trouble or worse!” Lynx yelled. “Are you suggesting that we just abandon them?!”
“No, it’ll be dark soon. We won’t have much luck if we can’t see,” Kaela explained. “Besides, it’ll be too dangerous.”
“Too dangerous?! What about them?!” Lynx continued to shout. “They fell from that ridiculously high cliff into that eerie forest. They’re the ones that will be in danger, trapped in that forest with severe injuries!”
“Sorry dude, but I agree with Kaela,” Dimetrios claimed. “We won’t find them if we search now. With a fall like that, it’s possible that they’re already dead anyway.”
Everyone went silent. They couldn’t do anything when Brayden and Pennie fell when the cliff broke because of Sabra’s explosion. There were so many soldiers in the way that they never would have reached them in time. As it was, Kaela only turned around in time to find them already falling. She felt bad about putting of rescuing them, but she had no other choice. The safety of the others was important as well.
“That doesn’t matter!” Lynx shouted refusing to listen. “If it had been one of us Brayden wouldn’t have hesitated! He’d come after us and rescue us no matter what!”
“But they’re right Lynx…” Cianna said quietly. “It’ll be useless if we go now. It’ll be like finding a needle in a haystack.”
“They’re our friends! We need to go after them even if it is pointless!” Lynx growled, still refusing to give up.
“No, means no, Lynx,” Kaela barked, fed up with Lynx’s stubbornness. “We’ll look for them first thing in the morning.”
“Forget it! I’ll look for them myself if I have to!” Lynx snarled.
Lynx ran away, leaving Kaela no choice but to chase after him. She couldn’t let him out of her sight because there was still a high chance that Sabra Blackwell or the Aria army were still out there looking for them. With the others close behind her, she followed Lynx down a hill an into the dark forest.
Pennie and Ray walked silently through the forest. They didn’t dare make a sound after what happened when the Dark Oviri suddenly appeared. They had been like that for hours, unable to talk to each other and just walking without thinking about stopping. Usually, Pennie would have asked for a break, but as darkness enveloped the forest she decided to push through her aching legs. The setting sun made the sky a dark orange colour and animals began to stir, from a hooting owl to howling wolves in the distance. Pennie hoped to get out of the forest as soon as possible. However, it seemed like they were nowhere near the exit meaning they would be in for a long and dangerous night.
“Would you stop already?!” A female voice shouted in the distance. “It’s too dangerous, we need to go back.”
“No! For the last time I’m not stopping until I find them!” a man yelled. “Go back if you wish but I’m going to keep searching!”
Pennie and Ray stopped and looked at each other as if to ask each other if they should keep walking or try and avoid the arguing people in front of them. The voices seemed to get closer making it clear that they were heading in their direction. However, as the voices got closer Pennie could easily recognise the familiar voices of Kaela and Lynx.
“If you would even think for a minute, you’ll realise that this is a bad idea!” Kaela barked.
“Well sorry for not thinking things through!” Lynx yelled. “I just want to save my friends. There’s no need to think twice about that!”
“Well, there’s some determination right there,” Dimetrios commented.
“Oh, please be quiet guys,” Cianna said with a shaken voice. “We’ll give away our position if you’re too loud.”
When the group finally appeared through the trees, Pennie smiled and ran towards them. Ray followed behind her but only walked at an even pace.
“You guys! Thank goodness,” Pennie called.
They turned to her and smiled with relief. Cianna, who had teary eyes ran towards Pennie and hugged her.
“You’re okay!” she shouted. “I was so worried something bad happened.”
“Yeah, you guys scared us half to death!” Lynx yelled, who also ran up to them. “I was starting to think that you had died.”
“No, we’re alright,” Pennie said as she pattered Cianna on the head. “Ray saved us you see. If it weren’t for him, I probably wouldn’t have survived.”
Man Valero, you are just full of surprises!” Dimetrios chuckled, slapping Ray’s shoulder. “Once again you defy the laws of death!”
“That doesn’t make any sense,” Ray sighed crossing his arms. “Did you seriously think I would die just like that?”
“Yep, I did. A normal person would have,” Dimetrios sniggered. “Good thing you’re as strange as they come.”
“Whatever,” Ray sighed, giving up on arguing with Dimetrios.
“Are you guys okay? You both look a little pale,” Kaela asked walking closer to them.
“Now that I think about it, you two look like you’ve seen a ghost,” Lynx commented.
“Maybe we did,” Pennie said.
“What do you mean?” Cianna asked, walking away from Pennie and drying her teary eyes.
“We ran into the Dark Oviri,” Pennie stated.
“Wait, how is that possible?!” Lynx shouted. “He died! Right?”
“Killed by the first Stellatrium Blast, yeah,” Dimetrios claimed. “So does that mean he’s been in hiding this whole time?”
“I don’t know, he just jumped in front of us out of nowhere,” Pennie explained.
“What did he want? And are you sure?” Lynx questioned with a raised eyebrow.
“Yes, I’m sure. He wanted to…” Pennie trailed off.
She looked towards Ray. He was still a little shaken about what happened, which was probably why he was so quiet. Pennie’s mind wandered to Darkyn’s offer and threat. She knew that Ray would never accept the offer, which meant he would have to fight him some day. However, he still seemed frightened by the man’s power, to the point that he still trembled slightly. The thing that still scared Pennie was Darkyn’s claim about knowing Ray.
“He just attacked us and disappeared,” Pennie lied. “It was quite strange.”
“Well at least you guys are okay,” Noah smiled. “I was really worried about you two.”
Noah flew up to Ray and landed on top of his head like he often did but unlike the other times Ray flinched in pain as soon as Noah landed.
“Ow. Would you please, get off, my head,” Ray growled through his teeth, slowing his sentence down to exenterate each word.
“Sorry…” Noah sighed, flying off of Ray’s head in disappointment.
“That’s not a normal reaction,” Kaela commented, intrigued by Ray’s behaviour. “Is everything alright Brayden?”
“Ray, does your head still hurt?” Pennie asked quickly with concern. She had been so concerned with Darkyn and making sure not to get caught by any more dangerous people that she neglected the fact that Ray had been injured.
“No, I’m alright, it just hurt when he put pressure on it,” Ray claimed. “Sorry for yelling at you Noah.”
“It’s fine, as long as you’re okay,” Noah said, flying into Ray’s arms.
“If it hurts that much, I should take a look at it,” Cianna stated.
“Perhaps later,” Ray said, stoking Noah’s fur and becoming calmer as he did. “For now, we should discuss what our next move is.”
“Well as I’ve been saying,” Kaela snarled, glaring angrily at Lynx. “We should find somewhere to lay low for the night and discuss properly what we’re going to do.”
“Then let’s set up camp,” Dimetrios suggested. “I thought I saw a small clearance a bit back. We should get some wood, make a fire and all that stuff.”
“But wouldn’t a fire give away our location,” Pennie asked. “You know, with the smoke and all.”
“Not if I use my magic to make it,” Ray replied. “I can control the smoke so it’s invisible.”
“Then it’s settled, we’ll rest for the night and figure out what to do in the morning,” Kaela said. “Dimetrios lead the way please.”
“Alright, for once I’m in charge,” Dimetrios exclaimed. “Okay my minions, follow me.”
As they followed Dimetrios to the place he suggested, Pennie looked towards Ray. Although he said he was fine, she couldn’t help but worry about him. Perhaps it was just because she was anxious about the next few hours. Not only did they have Sabra, the Anti-Government Guild Destruction and the Earl of Aria and his army to worry about, but Darkyn the Dark Oviri as well. Pennie knew that their troubles were far from over.
In one of the MLC prisons, Visola sat patiently in her cell with her stomach rumbling. It had been a few days since she had something to eat because the soldiers on guard duty had refused to feed her. She didn’t know why they were behaving that way. Visola had been co-operating with the MLC’s demands ever since she was arrested. She had made sure that she was extremely well behaved not to cause any more trouble for anyone. The guards would laugh as they walked past her cell, commenting on how much longer she’ll last before she’d starve to death. The sad thing was that Visola wasn’t the only one who received that kind of treatment. One of the prisoners next to her was denied water until he was extremely dehydrated. Such treatment made Visola realise that the MLC was just as corrupt as the CSOG. There was no escaping from the windowless white rooms either because of the laser door that would fry anyone who tried to leave. What Visola missed most was the fresh air as she sighed, fiddling with her feet as the chains around her ankles clattered.
The zapping of the laser door disappearing filled the empty room. Visola looked up from her feet to see a cloaked figure enter with a small bowl in their hands. She could smell the hot savoury soup as the figure walked towards her.
“Here,” a woman’s voice said coldly as she passed Visola the bowl with a spoon.
Visola grabbed it, the temperature of the bowl warming her hand. She started the meal slowly, savouring the salty chicken flavour.
“I apologize for the poor behaviour,” the woman claimed with a flat tone. “It’s is unacceptable for MLC soldiers to behave that way. I will see to it that they are severely punished.”
“Well, thank you for this. I certainly didn’t expect you to show up here of all places,” Visola said, placing her spoon back into the bowl.
Visola knew the woman by not only her voice but her cold and threating manner. She looked up as the girl watched her with her bright green eyes.
“So what do I owe this pleasure, Phoenix Hunter Azaliea?” Visola asked.
Azaliea removed her hood and smiled devilishly. Her eyes stared down Visola in a patronizing manner, like he was nothing more than an insect intercepting her personal space.
“I’m surprised someone like you remembered me,” she sneered. “It’s been a while hasn’t it, Visola Marino.”
“How could I forget, I’m a secret agent of the Haiva you know, I’m supposed to know these things,” Visola stated. “So, what are you doing at this moment? Do you plan on joining the fight against the current threat?”
“No, I have no ambition to do anything that would favour the victory of one side,” Azaliea replied as she crossed her arms and leant against the wall next to Visola. “I’m simply following orders for the time being.”
“You say that, but I heard from the Earth Elemental Dimetrios Tuff that you helped him by killing some Dark Soul members,” Visola recalled. “Would it be out of line to ask how you manage to make peace with it?”
“I suppose not, but why do you ask?” Azaliea asked, turning her head to watch Visola.
“Well, as you know I tried to kill off thousands of people and even though it didn’t happen I still feel guilty,” Visola explained with a frown. Talking about what she almost did, made her lose her appetite.
“Well, it wouldn’t have worked anyway. Resurrection magic always has issues that come along with it. Besides the person you tried to revive has been alive from the beginning so it wouldn’t have mattered if you succeeded or not,” Azaliea claimed. “As for those men I eliminated last year, they happened to be some of Le Alba’s most dangerous criminals. It is only acceptable that they put through a quick painless death by my hand before they caused any more trouble.”
“It’s such a terrible we live in,” Visola sighed. “No matter what we do it seems that everything just ends in disaster.”
“Yes, the World is filled with misfortune. There will always be those who walk among the path of darkness,” Azaliea stated with no emotion in her voice. “However, as long as my heart follows the path light, I have no problem with killing all those who oppose me. If that makes me a monster or a villain, so be it. When peace is on the line, murder is easy.”
“I see. Then may I ask why you let me live?” Visola asked, interested in her answer.
“Oh, it’s simple really. I had no intention of killing someone innocent. Such punishment too cruel for someone who has no control over their actions. I may come across as heartless but even I’m not that merciless,” Azaliea stated. “I simply couldn’t let someone suffer without coming to their aid, an old habit which I find to be quite a pain.”
The similarity of her words shocked Visola, she ended up just staring at her with a blank expression. It was strikingly similar to what Brayden Valero had said. Visola came to realise the similarities between Azaliea and Brayden. Their manner of speech and their firm belief in justice was similar. She considered discussing her relationship with Brayden but decided against it because with Azaliea’s dark personality Visola had no idea how Azaliea would respond.
“Hey did you hear the news?” one of the soldiers muttered. He tried to keep his voice down but it echoed through the hall.
“No, I hear a lot of news down here,” another claimed.
“I heard that that group we sent out to Aria was attacked,” the first man explained. “Apparently they were waiting for Twilight Heart to arrive and ambushed them.”
“That’s terrible, do we have a mole in the MLC?” the second man asked. “Did someone tell Sir Richardson?”
“Are you crazy, he’d be furious!” the first man growled through his teeth. “He’d kill the person who tells him that!”
Visola could hear the men’s footsteps disappear. Immediately after hearing Twilight Heart mentioned, she knew who was in trouble and she began to stress. Twilight Heart had saved her life, and she couldn’t save there’s because she was stuck in that cell.
“Oh no…” was all Visola could say.
“My my, it looks like my mission just keeps getting more and more interesting,” Azaliea chucked. Her laugh was so cold and menacing that it sent shivers down Visola’s spine.
“Lady Azaliea, it is strange for you to be in the city,” Visola stated, watching Azaliea whose gaze was still on the outside of the cell. “And why is it that you’ve come all this way to see me.
“It would seem,” Azaliea sneered as she turned to face Visola with a sly smile. “I have a task for you. One that you have no other choice but to accept.”