Hope's Bright!

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The Days that Follow

Ray’s body felt heavy and ached slightly when he regained consciousness. He was a little shocked when he opened his eyes and found himself looking at the familiar dark purple roof. Somehow, he had made it back to the Twilight Heart base’s infirmary, but with a gap in his memory, he couldn’t remember how he got there. When he sat up, he had a dull ache in his head and felt unbelievably weak. Nanna Kaden came through light blue curtains a few minutes later and told him that Dimetrios had brought him there after collapsing from a high fever and had been sleeping for nearly two wh. According to her, his Kohai energy became very high very suddenly, which was the reason he lost consciousness. Once she finished explaining everything she knew, she gave Ray some medication for the pain and tended to his swollen wrist and hand. After promising to take it easy for the rest of the week, he was allowed to leave the infirmary.

His head spun a little as he climbed down the stairs, forcing him to hold onto the rail tightly. He sighed with relief when he made it to the Twilight Heart lounge, thankful that he managed to get there without tripping. He prepared himself for the large crowd that would most likely surround him. It was late in the afternoon, so the base was going to be very busy and really hoped that everyone didn’t run towards him all at once to see if he was okay. Much to his relief, only Pennie seemed to notice him as he walked through the doors.

“Ray!” Pennie yelled, running up to him. She stopped when she got close enough and gave him a worrying glance. “Are you alright now?”

“I kind of feel like someone hit me over the head with a bat,” Ray claimed honestly, knowing that lying wouldn’t be wise at that moment. “But other than that, I’m feeling a bit better.”

“Thank goodness, I was really worried about you,” Pennie gave him a relieved smile. “What about your hand?”

“Oh right,” Ray muttered, looking at his bandaged left hand. “Nanna Kaden said that it’s only a mild Kohai infection and sprain. It should be better in a few days. How are the others? Is everyone else okay?”

“Yeah, of course,” Pennie nodded. “We’re all just sitting at that table over there.”

Ray followed Pennie to where Cianna, Dimetrios, Kaela and Noah were sitting at one of the larger tables talking. He expected that they’d act strangely when they saw him, being overly concerned about his wellbeing after collapsing the way he did. However, they greeted like normal, which is exactly what Ray would have preferred.

“It’s nice to see you up and about Brayden,” Kaela claimed as Ray sat at the table with them. “Feeling better now?”

“I suppose,” Ray stated. “Sorry for worrying all of you.”

“It’s no problem at all,” Cianna exclaimed. “We’re just glad that you’re okay now Mr Ray.”

“Where did Lynx go?” Ray asked, noticing that he was nowhere to be seen. “I only realised he wasn’t here because no one has said something completely obnoxious.”

“Probably at home in a shit,” Dimetrios shrugged. “He was the biggest prick the last few days. I get why you got fed up and stopped talkin’ to him Brayden.”

“Did you just call me by my name?” Ray asked, shocked that Dimetrios was calling him Brayden instead of Valero. “Why are you suddenly addressing me like that?”

“You asked me to,” Dimetrios claimed. “You were sayin’ somethin’ about gettin’ along better and wanted to be known for you instead of your family. You were practically beggin’ me, so I agreed.”

“Really? I really don’t remember that. What exactly happened to me?” Ray asked. “There seems to be quite a large gap in my memory. How did I get back here?”

“I can answer that,” Dimetrios grinned. “So, you were all feverish, delusional and couldn’t walk. You were pretty sick, so I carried you here. When I walked through the doors, everyone was happy to see me and wanted to celebrate our victory. I, however, said no as at that point you lost consciousness again, and your fever got worse. I then handed you to Nanna Kaden, you slept for about two days, and now we’re here talkin’ about it.”

“Thanks, I really am grateful you did that, but I was actually hoping for a bit more of an explanation. Could you tell me what…?” Ray sighed before trailing off, a sudden thought popping into his mind. “Wait, did you say again? Did I actually pass out more than once? Did I wake up at one point?”

Ray watched as they glanced at each other, wondering if they should tell Ray what happened. The look on their faces made Ray feel very uneasy and began to realise that he must have acted strangely. Since he had a fever, he immediately knew that he had gone into that silly giggly mode he went into when he got sick.

“No… I didn’t…” Ray muttered.

“Yeah, you did,” Noah spoke up.

“I am so sorry for anything I may have said,” Ray said, bowing his head. “When I have a fever like that my mind just shuts down and I start to blurt out random things. I must have been very annoying giggling like that. I hope I didn’t say or do anything to offend any of you.”

“Other than hugging Noah until he couldn’t breathe and making Blaze turn red with embarrassment, nothing really,” Pennie replied. “You can’t remember any of that?”

“I did?” Ray sighed again. “And no. I don’t often remember what happens when I’m like that.”

“You weren’t too bad this time,” Noah claimed. “I think you were so sick from that fever it didn’t last for too long. You didn’t go as crazy as usual either.”

“Wait, there’s been worse?” Dimetrios chuckled. “I thought him believin’ he had to get his hand cut off was hilarious, but he’s done funnier things?”

“No, I really thought that?” Ray muttered, blushing in embarrassment before placing his arms on the table and burying his face in them.

“It’s been about five years, but the last time he was sick he accidentally knocked over a shelve full of books. When they hit the ground, he burst into tears saying that the books had died,” Noah explained. “And what was that place you occasionally say you want to visit when you have a fever? Was it the ice cube land?”

“Something like that. Whatever that is,” Ray sighed heavily. “Why did you all have to see me like that? It’s so embarrassing.”

“Well I don’t mind it,” Pennie claimed. “It was kind of a relief seeing that weak side of you. It made you seem more human and made us feel not so bad about how poorly we fought against Sabra.”

“Speaking of which,” Ray said as he lifted his head slightly. “Did we win? I’m assuming we saved Blaze as well. Right?”

“Wait a minute Mr Ray, don’t you remember what happened?” Cianna asked.

“No, that’s why I asked before,” Ray said. “The only reason I knew I collapsed from a fever was because Nanna Kaden told me.”

“What was the last thing you remember?” Kaela asked.

“I think… I know that I ended up altering Toivoa the create Toivoa Field, then I may have told Sabra I could defeat him without magic. I remember moving towards him and then…” Ray claimed, sitting up straight. As he ran his fingers through his hair, he realised he was unable to continue his explanation. “That’s it… everything goes black after that.”

“That’s nearly the whole day,” Dimetrios exclaimed. “Damn, I was gonna ask you about all that cool stuff you did.”

“What did I do?” Ray tilted his head, more confused than before. “Sorry, I really can’t remember anything.”

Kaela went on to explain what happened in the battle against Sabra. She told him about how Pennie got captured and how he lost his temper and attacked Sabra recklessly. She explained that Sabra nearly defeated him before Blaze woke up and saved them. Pennie then said how Ray figured out that Shadow Eye was a scam that she used Sean to defeat Sabra.

“So, what happened to Blaze?” Ray asked. “And where is he now?”

“It happened while you were still sleeping,” Pennie claimed. “When we got back, Blaze apologised to everyone for everything he did. Of course, since a lot of those older members spread rumours about him, they weren’t eager to have him back. However, Master Isaac came and vouched for him, telling us all about Sabra and the things he used to do when he was a member. Not long after that, the real Earl of Aria showed up. He was concerned that Blaze hadn’t visited him in years and once he heard that he went missing and went to search for him, which was how Sabra and Destruction were able to take over Aria so easily.”

“The man just left his whole state unprotected? Wouldn’t that also mean that when Sabra claimed Blaze was taking over the army, they just believed him?” Ray asked in shock. “So, I guess that Aleron’s description of him being crazy and strange was true.”

“He is. The old man even insists that Aliené calls him Elexi,” Dimetrios stated. “He’s weirder than you at least.”

“Anyway, the Earl asked Blaze to help him fix things up back in Aria, and he agreed,” Pennie continued. “They seem to get along quite well, which was surprising, so he left with the Earl this morning.”

“The Earl also promised that he’d be punishing Blaze for his crimes,” Kaela added. “He won’t be back until he finishes the training he’s been assigned with.”

“Well, that’s good,” Ray stated. “I’m glad to hear that things are looking up for him after all he’s been through.”

“I agree,” Pennie smiled.

“So, is that everything you wanted to know?” Noah asked.

“No, you still haven’t told me what happened between defeating Sabra and my fever episode,” Ray claimed.

“There’s not much to tell,” Kaela stated. “A few minutes after beating Sabra you just collapsed suddenly. That was all.”

By the tone of her voice, Ray knew that she was leaving out a large chunk of information. He looked around at the others who seemed to be avoiding answering his question any more than what Kaela had already said.

“What aren’t you telling me?” Ray asked.

“Nothing special,” Pennie claimed. “You don’t have to worry about it.”

“Really? Then why don’t I believe you?” Ray said, not believing Pennie at all.

“I knew he’d figure it out,” Dimetrios snarled. “You may as well tell him.”

“Fine,” Pennie sighed. “You see Ray, Darkyn came back to get an answer to his offer from you, bringing along a Shadow Beast named Kazmir. To make matters worse, Sabra reappeared and had collected an item for Darkyn.”

“Kazmir… Where have I heard that name before? It sounds…” Ray began.

The moment he started thinking about Kazmir, everything that happened came back to him. His eyes went wide as the excruciating pain in his head returned. Everything from the battle with Sabra, the return of Darkyn, the transformation of Kazmir and the images and voices he had heard before he collapsed flashed before him again. Feeling dizzy from the pain he grabbed his head with his hands, shut his eyes and began to tremble in pain.

“Mr Ray!” Cianna shouted. “What’s wrong?”

“Ray, is everything okay?” Pennie asked. “Is your head hurting again?”

“Y-yeah… I collapsed after Kazmir transformed, didn’t I?” Ray muttered as the pain eased slightly.

“You can remember now?” Cianna asked. Ray opened his eyes to find her staring at him with a concerned glance. “Do you even know why you collapsed?”

“I… can’t say, I don’t understand it myself. All I know is whatever happened it caused unbearably sharp pains in my head,” Ray explained, removing his hands from his head. “After that everything is a little hazy aside from the fact that the pain became so bad that my eyes kind of stopped working.”

“What about after that? Can you remember anything else?” Cianna asked, attempting to find a clue to what was causing his headache.

“No, but…” he muttered, remembering something important that happened before his memory cut out again. “What ended up happening to Azaliea?”

“Azaliea? What are you talking about Ray?” Pennie wondered.

“She was there, wasn’t she?” Ray said, looking up at her. “She fought back Kazmir and Sabra while we escaped. So, I wanted to know what happened to her after that.”

“Brayden, that didn’t happen,” Dimetrios stated bluntly. “Other than that Visola who came to our rescue, no one else was with us.”

“Wait? Really?” Ray asked, looking shocked. He lowered his gaze and sighed. “I could have sworn…”

“I’m sorry Ray, but she really wasn’t there,” Pennie said.

Ray sighed again. He should have known finding Azaliea wouldn’t have been that easy. He still strongly believed that she was the one who saved them. However, if he was the only who saw her, it meant that his mind was playing tricks on him.

“My fever must have been really bad, huh?” Ray laughed awkwardly. “I must have started to hallucinate.”

“Brayden…” Kaela muttered with a frown.

“It’s fine. If it didn’t happen, it didn’t happen,” Ray assured them as they looked at him with worried expressions. “Things could have been worse.”

“Mr Ray, are you feeling alright? You’ve gone pale,” Cianna asked.

“Honestly, my head is hurting, and I feel a little unwell,” Ray sighed as he got to his feet. “So, I think I’m going to head home for the day.”

“Okay, feel better soon,” Pennie called out to him.

He smiled and waved at her as he left the room. Noah followed him as he walked out of the base and into the streets of Asteria in complete silence.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Noah asked, flying into his arms.

“I don’t know…” Ray muttered with a frown, keeping his gaze down. “I feel… strange…”

He wasn’t really feeling sick, and the pain had dulled down complete once the images stopped flashing in his mind. However, something still felt wrong. Despite sleeping for as long as he did, he felt exhausted and dizzy. He sighed and lifted his head. It had been a long week, and he assumed the stress was beginning to take its toll on him. All he had to do was get some rest, and the odd feeling would go away. At least, that was what he’d believe would happen.

Sabra limped, stumbled and muttered angrily under his breath as he made his way to Destructions main headquarters. Everything had gone wrong and years of planning had ended in complete failure. He barely managed to transport himself to safety while Azaliea was distracted by the other members and it had taken him nearly two days to make it to Acqua Stellata. He knew the sixty-five members he left behind well, believing that not even the Phoenix Hunter would survive facing all of them and Kazmir at the same time. He groaned as more pain shot through his body. He had returned to his normal size, but the side effects of using Apollo’s blood ate away at him relentlessly. He did not know how much longer he had left to live, but his plans were far from over. He would still get the world he was after, he had so many more plans that he could use. Sabra had a massive army waiting to be used, and he still had his relationship with Darkyn. Le Alba would face war again even if it occurred while he was on his death bed. Once he turned the corner, preparing himself to enter his base, all of his plans fell to ruin.

Down the dark alleyway blood sank into the pavement and the entrance to Destruction’s headquarters had fallen to pieces. Sabra growled once he saw Azaliea sitting amongst the bodies of all six hundred of Destruction’s members impatiently tapping on her phone.

“Hello Sabby, welcome home,” she said, looking up from her phone. “We missed out on the opportunity to talk last time.”

“Azaliea, what are you doing here,” Sabra growled. “And what have you done to my guild?”

“I did my job, I annihilated one of the anti-government guilds,” Azaliea replied. “But I must say that was even easier than I expected. It only took a minute, and all I had to do was slit each of their throats. Honestly, for high-level criminals, I thought this would be more exciting.”

“Is that so?” Sabra clicked his tongue in annoyance. “What happened to Kazmir?”

“He fled just like you and I had no intention of following him,” Azaliea claimed. “He’s… a coward I guess you could say. He won’t do anything unless he’s hired to do so.”

“Really? And what do you want with me, you shitty little princess?” Sabra snarled.

“All that’s left is you now,” Azaliea sighed, placing her phone in her pocket and getting to her feet. “You’ve been very busy, just what are you planning?”

“It’s none of your business, Phoenix Hunter.” Sabra snarled.

“Hmm, I could probably guess,” Azaliea smirked. “Let’s see. I assume you somehow managed to convince Blaze Aliené to be mentored by you. It is also my guess he decided to go against you that night he disappeared. Despite this, you managed to trick him into falling under your Puppet magic, which you had planned to happen from the beginning. That way, you could use his title as Earl to take control of Aria and use their superior army to destroy Luminea. However, that has failed so now you are serving the Dark Oviri, hoping that you could use him for the same goal. Am I correct?”

“How did you know?” Sabra growled.

“Come now, did you forget who I am? As soon as I discovered that you were spotted with the missing Blaze Aliené, I knew that was what you were doing,” Azaliea smiled.

“You never fail to amaze, don’t you?” Sabra clicked his tongue in annoyance at how Azaliea had perfectly read his actions. “Is that why the MLC sent you to deal with me personally.”

“Oh, I’m not here as the Phoenix Hunter,” she frowned as she glared at Sabra coldly. “I’m here as the representative of the Haiva Nobility. It would seem they are not happy with your manipulation of Aria’s noble family. Though I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to deal with you myself.”

“You bitch, do you really think you can take out the likes of me?” Sabra laughed. “Ha, you are just as bad as me, just look at all the people you killed tonight. Isn’t that why you left Twilight Heart?”

“Article three, one shall not kill. Do you know why such a rule exists?” Azaliea asked, ignoring Sabra’s last comment. “It’s so people who fight for this forsaken country with hope don’t end up like me. I may look like a mere teenage girl, but I am an assassin born and raised. Mercilessly killing people for the sake of peace is my job, and it always will be. No matter how much I wish otherwise.”

“Is that so?” Sabra scoffed. “And what has that got to do with me, Oh Lady Azaliea.”

“Before I kill you, I want to know one thing,” Azaliea narrowed her eyes. “Just what are your motives?”

“That I would be glad to answer,” Sabra smirked, pulling out his knives. “It was all to destroy you.”

Sabra activated Shadow eye and attacked her. He swung relentlessly at her, but she dodged every time. She moved in a similar way to Brayden Valero but her movements were slower and more precise. She kept a straight face the entire time, and it looked like she wasn’t even trying.

“Whatever happened to your wonderfully dead eyes Azaliea?! You talk with life in those pretty green eyes of yours even when discussing death,” Sabra yelled, trying to anger her and mess with her movements. “Is it your precious Ray? Are you that glad to see him awake and well that you of all people have hope? Is it that he remembers you even though he was cursed to never remember anything?”

Azaliea said nothing, keeping a straight face as she dodged all of Sabra’s attacks with ease. Annoyed that he was getting nowhere but going around the ally in circles, Sabra clicked his tongue in rage.

“Or perhaps was it the Aliené being alive,” Sabra sneered. “Don’t get your hopes up too much little Miss Allie. He is doomed to die, it’s only a matter of time.”

It happened so quickly he didn’t even have time to scream. He felt something extremely sharp slash across his chest, causing pain that Sabra never thought existed. His knees gave way as his blood fell to the ground in clumps.

“It’s such a shame really, I might have spared you if this was another time and place. But you managed to hurt the two things I care about most, so I really couldn’t care less what happens to you. It’s better if you die here and now.” Azaliea claimed.

Sabra looked up at her weakly. She glared down at him with hate-filled eyes. In her hand was a sword with a curved magenta guard swirled around the handle that had a ribbon with bells at the end tied around it. Its unique blade had black and purple kohai energy swirling around it like flames as his blood dripped from it.

“Curse you…” he managed to mutter, placing his arm on top of the massive cut in his chest. “You wrench! You’ll be the first killed when Darkyn...”

Azaliea threw a dagger into his arms, causing Sabra to fall into a pool of his own blood. She then threw two more, pinning his arms to the ground before she stood over him.

“What you did really pissed me off, I could let you suffer as Apollo’s blood kills you but I don’t want to let you live for another moment,” Azaliea growled, her green eyes glaring at him with pure rage.

With a click of her fingers, the entire ally was lit ablaze, burning the bodies and the base of Destruction.

“A war obsessed maniac like you deserves to die in the most painful way imaginable,” she stated coldly. “This is goodbye, Sabra Blackwell.”

She walked away and disappeared into the burning embers. Sabra cursed her name as he took his last breath and became engulfed in flames.

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