Hope's Bright!

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Concerns in the Darkness

As Twilight Heart sat around the campfire, night fell upon them. While the others spoke happily to each other, Ray sat by himself watching the flames burn away at the wood. Despite being the one to create it, Ray believed that the fire wasn’t as warm as he had hoped. Normally, he found that watching his flames dance into the sky relaxing. Whether it was their warmth, the hypnotic way they moved or if it was because it gave him a connection to his past, the burning embers never failed to calm his nerves. However, the fire that crackled in front of him were cold and lifeless, which made Ray feel uneasy. The others didn’t seem to notice, or perhaps Ray was the only one who could tell the difference.

“Mr Ray, it’s your turn now,” Cianna stated, walking up to him. “May I please have a look at your injuries?”

Ray looked at her briefly, sighed then returned his gaze to the campfire. After they set up camp by creating the fire and placing logs as seats around it, Cianna had been healing everyone’s wounds. At first, Cianna wanted to heal Ray first, but he told her that he was fine and that she should worry about the others first. She hesitated at first, but after insisting that everyone needed it more than him, Cianna agreed. Ray felt bad about manipulating her for his own sense of relief, but he was really worried about the others, especially Pennie. He had lied to her about what happened. The truth was that the falling rubble had hit him first and knocked him out for a couple of seconds. Once he opened his eyes, he saw the unconscious Pennie falling a few metres away from him and used his flames to propel himself towards her. Once he grabbed onto her, he pulled her close to his chest and held onto her tightly. He didn’t dare try to grab onto the trees as they fell, fearing that if he even let go of Pennie with one hand. Ray closed his eyes and placed his head close to hers until they hit the ground. It left a horrible feeling in his stomach to think that if Ray had just been a second later, Pennie would have died instantly on impact. Ray didn’t tell anyone this of course, some things are better left unsaid.

“I’m alright,” Ray claimed, forcing himself to smile at Cianna. “You really don’t need to concern yourself with me. I’m not in any pain, so I’m fine.”

Ray wasn’t lying, he really was fine. Or at least he thought he was. If he was completely honest, he felt a little strange. There was nothing wrong with him physically. His body was quite tough and didn’t break easily. The last time he had any severe injuries was when Aleron found him, close to death with a handful of broken bones and three large cuts on the side of his torso. Although he remembered nothing about it, he still had the scars to remind himself that something bad had happened to him. Since then the worse Ray had been injured was in his fight against Dimetrios, but even then, that was only multiple bruises, scratches and scrapes.

“Are you sure?” Cianna asked, sounding uncertain if Ray was telling the truth.

“Yeah…” Ray muttered as he nodded his head.

Despite feeling like he was in perfect health, Ray couldn’t shake the bad feeling he had. It was an anxious feeling that made his chest and stomach feel weird. He had felt that way ever since he ran into Darkyn. At first, he wasn’t afraid of the man, despite his strange claims of knowing Ray. If the man had just jumped out the sky and said he was the Dark Oviri, Ray believed he wouldn’t have felt afraid even then, he had a feeling that kind of thing would happen eventually anyway. However, as soon as Darkyn’s power emerged, Ray’s body began to shake uncontrollably. The aura of his magic was familiar, and every muscle in Ray’s body told him he was afraid and every instinct he had told him to run. Thinking about it made Ray’s chest feel tighter, so he shook his head and erased the thought from his mind.

“I should probably have a look anyway Mr Ray,” Cianna insisted. “Pennie said you hit your head rather hard. So, it’s really important that I have a look at it.”

“Alright, if you really must,” Ray agreed, knowing that Cianna wouldn’t give up.

Cianna got to her knees and sat beside Ray as he turned to face her. As she pushed back his hair and revealed the band-aid that Pennie put on him earlier, Ray closed his eyes. When Cianna gently removed it, it didn’t seem to hurt like Ray thought it would.

“Oh wow,” Cianna muttered.

“What’s wrong?” Ray asked. Concerned by Cianna’s reaction, he opened his eyes.

“No there’s nothing wrong,” Cianna replied. “The cut on your head is practically healed already. All that’s left is a faint scar that will probably fade in a day or two.”

“Well isn’t that lucky Valero?” Dimetrios laughed, moving closer to them. “Not only are you practically indestructible you also heal impossible fast. I must say even I’m a little jealous.”

Ray rolled his eyes and sighed. He really didn’t think there was anything about him that Dimetrios could possibly be jealous of.

“Well, it is quite amazing, especially since self-healing isn’t my specialty,” Cianna commented. “However, this bruise at your hair line is quite bad, Mr Ray. It really seems like you hit your head really hard. Are you sure you don’t feel sick at all? Any dizziness or fatigue?”

“No,” Ray claimed, a little tired of repeating himself.

“Well, it doesn’t seem like you have a concussion,” Cianna said stretching out her sentence. “But I think I’ll use some healing magic just in case.”

Cianna summoned her pale pink magic into her hand and placed it gently on Ray’s head. It stung slightly as her fingertips made contact with the bruising on his forehead, but the pain quickly faded seconds later. Cianna’s healing magic was nice and cool as it sunk into his skin. He was also amazed by how relaxed it made him feel. It also made Ray want to learn how to use healing magic himself. Since he was able to pull off the original Toivoa spell, he assumed that he had some Light Elemental abilities. Ray decided that as soon as the mission he’d look for some books to see what he was capable of.

“There, I’m done now,” Cianna claimed, moving her hand away. “I can’t say for sure that I made things any better. I’m still a little inexperienced when it comes to head injuries.”

“And once again, I’m totally fine,” Ray said. “You really don’t need to worry so much.”

“Well now that we are all healed up, we need to talk about what are we are going to do about tomorrow,” Kaela stated. “Any ideas?”

“We should just storm the place!” Lynx exclaimed. “They’re in that castle, right? If we leave bright and early in the morning and attack, they won’t see us coming. We should just barge in and take them all on with everything we’ve got.”

Ray wanted to tell Lynx that his idea was stupid and was sure to get them killed. However, he didn’t dare say a word. He didn’t even consider letting nicely explain why the plan wouldn’t work because he knew that no matter what Ray said, Lynx would retaliate nastily and offensively which would make Ray feel more uncomfortable and anxious than he already was. Since Lynx always argued and made fun of everything Ray said, it was just easier not to talk at all.

“That is literally the most stupid plan I’ve ever heard,” Dimetrios stated blatantly.

“I agree,” Pennie sighed, looking a little annoyed at Lynx. “There is no way that I’m risking my life for a ridiculous plan that will get us killed before we even reach the front door.”

“Now just that’s rude!” Lynx growled. “I expected Brayden to say something like that but certainly not you two. Did you guys even consider the possibility that we could succeed? In my opinion, I think you two are the stupid ones for not liking my genius plan.”

“Now I’m glad I didn’t say anything,” Ray muttered under his breath.

“Brayden, come one what do you think?” Lynx asked turning to Ray with eyes pleading for someone to agree with him.

Ray didn’t reply, he just looked away. He hoped that completely ignoring Lynx would get him to leave him alone.

“Still not talking to me…huh,” Lynx sighed. “Well, fine. I didn’t want your opinion anyway.”

“The others are right Lynx,” Kaela spoke up. “It’s too dangerous of a plan, not that it was much of a plan, to begin with.”

“The what do you think we should do?” Lynx snapped.

“Honestly, I think we should retreat as soon it becomes light enough,” Kaela claimed. “We’ve achieved what we set out to do. We should report back to Sir Richardson and confirm that both Destruction and Aria are involved with these attacks. There is no need to fight anymore.”

“But…” Lynx interjected.

“This is no time to be acting like a hero,” Kaela cut Lynx off. “We need to run while we have the chance to do so. It’s the only way I think we can make it out of here alive.”

Snarling under his breath Lynx leant against the log and leant the back of his head against his arms with a sour expression. No one said anything after that. Ray didn’t know if it was because they agreed with Kaela or were reluctant to speak up and object. Something made Ray feel that Kaela’s plan was just as risky as Lynx’s.

“Actually, I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Ray eventually spoke up. “I think it’s highly possible that there will be people guarding every exit of this place, so technically speaking running is just as risky as fighting.”

“Then what do you think we should do Mr Ray?” Cianna asked.

“Well, Lynx was right about attacking were the enemy is,” Ray explained. “They may still expect our arrival, but they will probably be ready of any option we could think of. Perhaps taking the fight to them would be less expected.”

“Wow, I didn’t expect that,” Lynx said with a surprised expression.

“Ray, surely you couldn’t agree with such a risky plan,” Pennie stated, looking frightened by Ray’s comment.

“No, I don’t, barging in is a sure way to get killed in minutes,” Ray sighed. “However, if we could draw Sabra’s attention, perhaps we could sneak in and wait until Sabra sends out the army to do his bidding.”

“Let me guess, then you are going to suggest that we take on Sabra once he’s alone,” Dimetrios rolled his eyes. “Something about that guy is extremely dangerous, I think he could defeat us with one attack. I’m actually disappointed, I thought you were the smart one Valero.”

“I never said anything about attacking Sabra,” Ray claimed, crossing his arms. “I was actually thinking of a way to get out of this situation without fighting at all.”

“And how do you suppose we do that?” Kaela asked. “It’s a great notion, but I don’t see how that it possible.”

“The chance may be slim, but I think if we can talk to the Earl of Aria. We may be able to not only get out of this alive but put an end to this threat,” Ray explained. “Something about this whole ordeal doesn’t add up. There are way too many inconsistencies for Destruction and the Aria army to have a perfect partnership. I think if we present ourselves to this so-called Earl, the truth will come to light.”

“Has this got something to do with the question I asked earlier?” Pennie asked.

“That’s right,” Ray nodded. “The way Aleron used to describe the Earl is what’s throwing me off. His personality of being an odd and crazy old man who became a pacifist doesn’t connect with these recent events. I think the only way to find out what’s really going on is to see it with our own eyes.”

“Since you’ve really thought this through, I think we should go ahead with your idea Brayden,” Kaela sighed. “I think this may be the best option for us. So then, what do you propose we do about getting inside?”

“Oh…well,” Ray muttered. “I haven’t exactly thought that far just yet. Besides, why do I need to be the one to come up with the plan?”

“You are the smartest of all of us, Mr Ray,” Cianna claimed. “If anyone could come up with a great plan it is you.”

“None of my plans seems to work, so I must agree,” Kaela stated, looking at Ray with a serious expression.

“I think so too Ray,” Pennie smiled. “I know you can do it.”

“Since you outclass all of us, we really have no choice but to listen to you,” Dimetrios said with disappointment and Lynx clicked his tongue in annoyance.

“I still don’t know,” Ray muttered, placing his hands in his lap and fiddling with his fingertips. “I mean, I could do it, but I have no idea about the place we are going to. To make a proper plan I need to know about the structure and possible traps. There’s just not enough information for me to use.”

“Then what if I scout the area?” Noah asked, speaking for the first time in hours. “I mean I still don’t know what’s going on, but I think I could do something.”

“Noah, are you sure?” Pennie asked.

“Yep, I can see pretty well in the dark. So I can find some things out about the place and report back to you,” Noah explained.

“Noah, you do realise how dangerous that is, right?” Lynx raised an eyebrow, his eyes showing that he was concerned about Noah.

“I can do this, it’s time for me to do something useful for once,” Noah insisted. “Because of my dark colouring and if I have the light of my tail out, no one will be able to see me in this darkness. Ray, can I please do this?”

Ray sighed. He would have preferred it if Noah stayed by his side instead of rushing off towards danger. However, he knew that it was their only option to make a half decent plan. Ray also knew that if Noah was determined to help, there was no talking him out of his proposal.

“Alright, but you are not to go inside,” Ray reluctantly agreed. “You should also keep your distance. As far as you possibly can, alright?”

“I can do that,” Noah nodded, flying into the air and preparing to set off. “Is there anything I should be looking for in particular.”

“Yes, I need you to locate the front of the building and find the most difficult entry point that may be under-guarded,” Ray replied. “Also look out of any force fields or surveillance systems. If you happen to find one, see if you can find where it operated from.”

“Got it,” Noah smiled, flying away. “I’ll be back as soon as I can!”

As Noah left the light of the campfire, he disappeared into the night sky. All they had to do was wait and hope that Noah would find something that would lead them to some kind of solution. However, Ray couldn’t help but feel that nothing they did would improve the situation. He had many suspicions about Sabra’s power and If he was right, things would only get worse no matter what.

Blaze stood alone in the nothingness. Everything around his was completely black and it was so dark that Blaze’s shadow couldn’t be seen.

“Where am I…?” Blaze muttered flatly as he looked around with a dull expression.

It was deadly silent apart from his voice echoing through the empty area. Blaze did nothing but stand around and try to make out where he was. However, he couldn’t even remember what he had been doing. A cold breeze brushed past him. It didn’t feel like the wind, instead it felt like something and walked behind him. He turned around to see what it was but there was nothing there. He was alone, there was nothing there. At least that’s what he constantly told himself.

“I guess it was just my imagination…” he said, his breath caught in his throat and a worried and uncertain expression.

Suddenly, voices began to whisper his name, voices that Blaze never heard before. With wide shaken eyes, Blaze looked around him trying to find were they were coming from. However, no matter how frantically he looked, he couldn’t see anything. As the voices became louder, Blaze became colder. Frightened and confused he began to run. He had to get away from the sound that rang through his ears and made his heart beat faster and faster. He continued to run even when his lungs began to burn with exhaustion. The voices became louder. They weren’t only chasing him, but they were getting closer. No matter how fast Blaze ran, he couldn’t get away and the complete darkness made it feel like he wasn’t going anywhere. As the voices became louder the words became so clear that it was almost like they were talking right into Blaze’s ears.

“Curse you…” one whispered.

“Die, you shouldn’t exist,” another stated.

“Kill everything, that’s all you are good for,” another demanded.

“I won’t forgive you, we’ll punish you for what you’ve done,” one claimed.

As the voices continued, Blaze became even more afraid. He covered his ears with his hands, trying to run faster and hoping he could finally get away. As he closed his eyes, he felt like cold hands were reaching towards him, attempting to grab onto him a drag him away. As the voices turned into laughs, tears welled up in his eyes.

“No leave me alone!” Blaze yelled, as the laughter became so loud that the creepy and deep noise echoed inside his head.

“Blaze,” a familiar girl’s voice called out to him.

He opened his eyes. Just within his eyesight he could see five figures walking in front of him. As he got closer, he could recognise that they were the people who were important to him. There was Chris, who was older than Blaze by a few years. He had black hair that was shaved back with decorated markings. Hannah the small girl with golden hair tied into a low side pony tail with a pink bow. She was shy but always smiled to male others happy. Then there was Uzume, the loud and obnoxious aristocrat with dark auburn hair who never failed to find the positive view in any situation. Nero was also there, the guy around Blaze’s age with cherry mahogany hair who was probably one of the closest of friends he ever had. Finally, there was her, the girl with long brown hair floating in the breeze.

“Wait! Don’t leave me behind!” Blaze called out to them.

They did not turn to face him and vanished from sight. Only the girl remained. She turned around and smiled as her long fringe covering her eyes. He called out her name, but no noise left his mouth. Eventually he got close enough to reach her., She reached out her hand to him and he reached out his to grab onto it. However, before their fingertips could touch, she disappeared. Blaze stopped, his eyes wide with shock. He looked down at his hands. He couldn’t reach her. Just like back then. He couldn’t do anything to protect her and he couldn’t be by her side. The ground from underneath him vanished and Blaze began to fall. He reached out his hand, hoping that someone would grab it. That someone would save him.

But no one did.

It wasn’t long before the darkness consumed Blaze, swallowing him and his tears whole.

For the first time in seven months, Blaze regained consciousness, his body aching all over as he lay on the cold hard ground. For some unknown reason, his mind was no longer under Sabra’s control, but he still couldn’t move. Blaze couldn’t remember anything that happened, the last thing he could recall was talking to the diabolic man. As his head spun and his vison blurred, he found himself in a dark empty room. Not too far in front of him was his phone, lying face down on the ground. It surprised Blaze because he thought for sure that Sabra would have taken it. Blaze assumed he was so confident in his appending victory that Sabra didn’t think to remove it from Blaze’s possession. It made sense since there was no way Blaze could use it while under Sabra’s spell.

“Maybe… I… could…” Blaze struggled to mutter.

A little too far to reach his phone, Blaze had no choice but move towards it. Since his legs wouldn’t work, he had to use his arms to drag himself across the floor, his body shaking violently as he did. He was only able to move for a few seconds before the pain and numbness became too much to bear. However, he was close enough to reach out his hand, grab it and turn it around. Despite the black and blue spots that clouded his vision, Blaze could see that his phone was badly cracked, which he guessed must have happened when someone had thrown him into the room and fell out of his pocket. However, the phone still worked perfectly fine as Blaze turned it on, the light from the screen brightening the room slightly.

Although he forced himself to move towards it, he didn’t actually know what he wanted to do. Even if he was to call for help, Blaze doubted anyone would come. He began to think that he had gotten his hopes up for nothing, it wasn’t like its presence would ease his pain, nor would it help him escape. However, he knew he had to do something. Blaze was most likely going to die anyway so calling for help was useless, but he had to call someone to stop Sabra. If the deranged man was left to do as he wished, millions of people were going to die. His body continuing to tremble and ache, Blaze opened the TCCATS app. He couldn’t see whose name he selected before clicking the SOS button on the bottom corner of his screen. As the phone vibrated on the ground, all Blaze could do was hope that someone would answer.

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