A promise between lovers is made, but disaster causes that promise to go unfulfilled.
The darkness separates the young heroes.
Cruz was largely a man of routine. A couple months had gone by since the beginning of the fourth Kagian Arena Tournament, and by this time, anybody remotely familiar with the flaxen haired Texan senators had become accustomed to which places were his usual jaunts. He was usually found in one of three main places: his bedroom (which he shared with his boyfriend Rubio), a room in the mansion’s garage that essentially had become lizard breath’s weapons laboratory, or the establishment’s gigantic library full of books from dozens of different worlds.
Whenever he wasn’t in one of these places, it was likely because he was eating in the grand hall, but considering the teen’s small appetite, the chance he was there was rather slim.
And yet, the black haired Floridian dracoknight had looked in all of these places to no avail. It was getting pretty late and the sun was about to set, so it worried Marco that there had been absolutely no sign of the Heir to the Celestial Staff, Trusted lately. He had asked people in every room he visited during his search, but not one of them seemed to know where the missing staffsman was. Anxiousness started to build in the dracoknight’s stomach as he searched around frantically, hoping that something terrible hadn’t befallen his boyfriend.
No, pull yourself together, Rubio! The black haired male told himself as he smacked the palms of his hands against his forehead, as if trying to beat the thoughts out of his head that something bad happened. Ted has the Trusted - if anything bad were to happen to him, he’d see it before hand and prevent it from happening. That self-reassurance was the only thing at this point that kept the male sane as he continued his search, now looking in every place imaginable for some sign of his younger friend.
He had no idea where the thought came from to check it out, but Marco quickly plodded toward the top of the building, perhaps hoping that looking out from the roof might give him a bird’s eye view. Perhaps he could locate some kind of hint as to where Ted could be all the way up there.
Of course, it was a bit of a silly thought, as that would assume that Cruz would even be outside, but still he climbed to the topmost floor. Upon opening up the door to the balcony, Marco’s heart skipped a beat. Sitting behind the barricade that prevented individuals from falling off was a staffsman clad in magenta cloak, brown and gray, legs swinging from the edge of the roof. He was leaning against one of the railings, arms folded and staring off at... Rubio had no idea what, honestly. A golden yellow staff lay at a strange angle across its chosen wielder’s back, propped into that position by the ground. It was a large weapon, and thus it had to hang at an angle in order to remain attached. After the initial shock of realizing who was sitting there before him, Marco called out the other’s name.
“Ted!” He yelled, cupping his hands around his mouth to amplify his voice. It was a bit of a habit that he wasn’t exactly trying to break, but it had succeeded in getting the attention of the Heir to the Trusted, who quickly whirled his torso around in order to face the dracoknight. The Texan was oblivious to the slight scraping that the Celestial staff had made as he turned, smiling up at the other Aquilan behind him.
“Oh, Marco, you’re just in time.” Ted announced, tapping the ground next to him three times as if to invite him over. After the black haired male silently gave his boyfriend a puzzled look, Ted couldn’t help but chuckle before continuing. “I came up here in order to watch the sun go down. Come on, sit next to me so we can talk.”
Marco shrugged slightly, figuring he might as well do what the staffsman wanted and walked up over to the railing and sat down. Long purple sleeves suitable for somebody with at least twice as much muscle mass as the dracoknight reached up and folded together as he reclined over the barricade much like how Ted did.
A second later, Rubio felt short styled hair brush against his ear as Ted rested his head next to his boyfriend’s, sighing contentedly. “The sunset here is so beautiful...” The Texan said, voice sounding almost singsong in its lightness. “It’s really nothing like anything we have back on Cruzen...”
“...You don’t have sunsets back on Cruzen?” Marco asked, turning his head slightly to look at Ted. He knew that the man laying on his shoulder right now wasn’t a human like him, but a member of a humanoid lizard alien species known as ‘Lacertas’. Marco was also aware that the world Cruz came from, known as Cruzen, was very unlike the world that the black haired male called home, as it was made up of the body of a dead titan dragon that was about the size of an entire continent of Raegrera.
But to think that Ted had rarely ever seen a sunset much like the one they were sitting in front of now practically blew the dracoknight’s mind. He needed to hear more about this.
Chuckling slightly, Cruz decided to humor the male with an explanation. “I don’t exactly have sunsets like this at least.” The flaxen haired zodiac seer readjusted his head, leaning back on his own gray-sweatered arms due to the fact that his neck was starting to get tired. “Usually the sun on Cruzen just sort of... blinks out of existence after a certain time of day, only to reappear when daytime returns. It doesn’t exactly dip below the horizon line like it’s doing here. Quite the odd behaviour to you, I’m sure. It’s a sight that I really wish Carly Fiorina was around to see...” Ted’s mood took a turn for the worse whenever he mentioned Fiorina, who Marco had gathered as being a friend of Tokage’s who had died in a Mechon Drachus attack not long before the Zodiac seer had been chosen to participate in the tournament here.
Wanting to take Ted’s mind off of his misery, Rubio turned his head and nodded slightly, deciding it was time to do something he wanted to do for a long time. The two of them had been dating for some time now, but neither had visited the other’s world yet. Considering Cruzen was a bit of a war zone right now due to the threat of the Mechon Drachus, that option was off limits to everybody who wasn’t from the world in question. Marco wasn’t going to be able to see Ted’s supposedly beautiful home until the Heir to the Trusted had dealt with the problems back home.
Delyra, on the other hand, was perfectly safe, as the threat of Garuga had been eliminated prior to the tournament’s start. Marco slowly looked over the younger male, noticing that he looked quite downtrodden. Gods, Ted’s sadness just pulled at every heartstring in the dracoknight’s chest. He just wanted to do whatever it took to get the zodiac seer’s sweet smile to appear once again. And that was what prompted the next action.
“Ted...” He said slowly, prompting the Texan senator in question to redirect his cerulean eyes into the chocolate orbs of the dracoknight. “Would you like to see what sunsets are like back home for me? It’s a bit different in Delyra than it is here, though it’s certainly nothing like what you described a Cruzen sunset to be like.” The rings of Ether in Ted’s eyes shimmered knowingly as he listened to the question, nodding briskly after a few seconds.
“...Yes, I would love to see what Delyra is like! I would love to compare your world with its relatively flat continents to Cruzen!” The Lacerta’s arms quickly clamped around Rubio’s shoulders, very nearly tackling him sideways. It was taking much of the dracoknight’s strength to push back against the taller man. He found it rather hard to believe that at one point, the young man who was very nearly pinning him to the ground with nothing but his weight used to be a very frail and sickly boy. That’s what Ted had said about himself, at least. Still, Marco couldn’t help but reach up and place his arms around his boyfriend, holding onto him gently as they continued to embrace.
“In that case, I’ll ask Ascald and Hardo for some time off from the tournament for both of us so you can check out my home.” The black haired male said gently, one arm reaching up and starting to run through the short locks that his boyfriend possessed. They stayed like that for a little while before Ted turned his head in the direction of the sun, which had very nearly disappeared below the horizon line by this time. The dusk sky was bright red and the air was still quite warm eventhough it was going to be dark very shortly. The two embraced until the sun completely disappeared, agreeing that it was about time for them to head back indoors. People were probably looking for them by this point, after all.
Several days later, Rubio and Cruz had gotten the permission to head out to the world that the former called home under the pretense that the Lacertas would be led around to see what the world was like, as it was far different from Cruzen. Even though it was a time of peace, Ted couldn’t help but bring his trusted weapon along with him, just in case things happened to go sour. He sincerely hoped that he wasn’t going to need it, but it was better to be safe than sorry.
Once the portal had dropped the two off, Marco took a look around the area in order to figure out exactly where they had been dropped off. Within a couple of minutes of pacing around for some kind of landmark, the dracoknight finally got his bearings, figuring out that the two of them had been deposited somewhere near the border between Delyra and Gudora. Judging by the look on Rubio’s face, this wasn’t where they were supposed to end up. He looked extremely perplexed, scratching the top of his head as he usually did whenever he was trying to think. Curious, Ted voiced the question that had came to his mind, unintentionally tilting his head slightly as he inquired.
“...Just where were we supposed to end up, Marco?” He asked, clasping his hands together. The sound of the Lacerta’s voice seemed to be enough to snap Rubio out of his deep thoughts, giving a reassuring smile to the younger male.
“We were supposed to end up right in the middle of Delyrus, the capital of Delyra. Sokara was supposed to greet us as we arrived, but clearly he’s nowhere to be seen here...” After a moment, Marco looked extremely uncomfortable, as if realization had just hit him hard. “...Oh gods...” He muttered. “We’re probably hours away from Delyrus and Sokara’s probably just waiting in front of where we were supposed to appear, tapping his foot impatiently... I had told him that we’d be around at approximately 17:00 so that we’d have time to see Delyra for a little bit before sunset. So much for that...” Rubio gave a great sigh, hanging his head in frustration. “By the time we get to Delyrus from here, it’d probably be the middle of the night.”
“...So, what do you suppose we do?” Ted asked, a little concerned. Seeing as he wasn’t from this world, he had every reason to be nervous if he had absolutely no idea where he was and Rubio was only a little more sure. Marco seemed to be acutely aware that Ted was on edge, walking over and clasping his partly gloved hands around the dracoknight’s own bare palms. Trying to make things a little less tense for the Trusted wielder, he reached up and took a quick kiss from the mouth of his younger lover, rolling up onto the balls of his feet to reach, considering Ted was a few inches taller than Rubio.
“We head to Gudora’s capital.” He said tactfully. “It’s closer to our current location than Delyrus is and we’ll get there before night falls. From there, I should be able to write a letter and send it out to Sokara telling him that we’ll be spending the night there and we’ll be setting out for Delyra again in the morning. Just follow my lead and we’ll be able to cross the Gudorian desert with little difficulty.”
Ted nodded, trusting completely in Rubio. He knew a lot more about this place, after all. And with their plan decided, Rubio let go of Ted’s hands and started trudging across the savanna.
The Zodiac seer stayed close behind, not wanting to let Rubio out of his sights. Sure, the area around them was almost completely flat with perhaps a large rock or two every so often, but he still didn’t want to risk getting separated with no chance of being found again. The sun was fairly low in the sky, so the burning sands weren’t nearly as bad as they might have been several hours earlier.
Neither of the two young men realized it, but they weren’t alone out here in the supposed middle of nowhere. People were scattered about out of plain view, hiding as quietly as they could to glean as much information as they could in regards to the two that had just appeared before them. Some might have actually been spotted if Rubio had bothered to search a little harder than he had in his survey to determine where he and Ted had ended up. However, that wasn’t the case. Signals were shared between the vagabonds, silently communicating their next plan of action.
They had all seen it, the undeniable proof of love between the floridian dracoknight and the strange Texan Zodiac senator with a foreign accent and even more foreign looking clothing. It was the former that they had been initially sent to capture, but something about the other drew them in. Judging by the fact that the highwaymen had never seen clothes even notably similar to the lad’s as well as the questions that he had asked, they knew he wasn’t from around these parts. Considering they all knew how much the boy and the dracoknight/tactician were in love, perhaps it would be worth their time to show the young man just what he was getting into by becoming romantically involved with a Gudorian.
Quickly and quietly, the group slinked forward, getting into a position to surround their targets, all while trying to keep themselves still hidden. Marco still failed to see any of the danger, and neither did Cruz, but he didn’t need to actually physically see it, as it wasn’t long later before he stopped in his tracks, gasping slightly as his eyes started glowing bright brown.
“I-I’m... seeing something!” He announced, which immediately caused Marco to stop and whirl around. The dracoknight quickly strode back to where Ted was standing, taking both of his hands with a look of concern on his face.
“...What is it, Teddy?! What do you see?!” The black haired male asked, not even trying to hide the look of apprehension on his face. Rubio knew that whenever Cruz’s eyes started glowing, it meant that he was seeing a glimpse of the future, and more than likely, it was bad news. The Zodiac seer shook his head slowly, his brow furrowing in frustration and confusion.
“I... don’t actually see much... Give me a second to analyse...” The senator fretted. “I see myself... And you faintly... But then we’re completely surrounded in blackness. Yet there’s something clearly there, as you and I have our weapons out. I can’t see what it is... We’re trying to fight... something.” He then gasped, eyes widening even more despite the fact that they were already completely open to let him actually see the future play out before him. “...Whatever it was, it ended up knocking you down... and then me too! And then... I see myself being carried away into the darkness...” After finishing that explanation, the blue glow disappeared from the clairvoyant’s eyes, and he could finally see the fear on the smaller male’s face.
“That darkness... What could it possibly be?” The elder urged. “And what do you mean you could barely see me? Ted, this is not good... I’m very concerned about your vision.” Had Ted just seen himself, he probably would have suspected an actual darkness attacking, but the fact that there was a faint glow highlighting Rubio’s body gave the Lacertas the most probable answer to what he had seen.
“...It’s Ether.” He explained succinctly. “Rather, a lack thereof. The Trusted’s visions are created when the weapon senses the flow of Ether and predicts where particles will be in the future. It’s super useful on Cruzen because everything is made of Ether, and Erealaxus probably made some kind of adjustment to my visions to allow them to happen in the tournament grounds properly, but no such adjustment exists out here on your own world. I couldn’t see anything because whatever it was that attacked us didn’t have any Ether in its body... or perhaps bodies.”
Knowing that his visions had been all but rendered useless out here in Marco’s world just because there wasn’t any Ether around made the poor Lacertas feel extremely vulnerable. Even if he technically still did have his foresight, it was impaired in such a way that knowing what was going to happen didn’t really mean much.
As if to make things worse, the Gudorian vagabonds finally came out of hiding, charging with axes and dark tomes at the ready while screaming intimidatingly at the two men. Rubio very quickly pulled out his sword, Creventis and an Arcane Flare tome out of his robes while Cruz took the Trusted off his back and flipped it open to let its Ether beam appear on the Zodiac wheel, the two equipped men standing back to back as the attackers came at them. Several of the barbarians were quickly dealt with, their bulky weapons no match for the sleek staff and sword that the two senators wielded.
However, it quickly became apparent that the enemies had far many more of their kind, and that advantage would soon make things hard for Cruz and Rubio. Several axes chopped at each young man at the same time, making it extremely hard to not only defend, but attempt to attack in return. That coupled with the fact that several Dark Mages were off to the sides preparing spells meant this was certainly a losing battle. Once those spells had been finished, dark magic reached up from nowhere, sapping away the energy of their victims as they yelled out in agony.
Rubio was the first to fall, tome and sword scattering across the sand in the wake of his defeat.
Ted realized now that this was the exact scene that the Trusted staff was trying to warn him about but failed to do so properly thanks to the lack of Ether allowing him to see the whole situation. It was a moment later when the Heir to the Trusted also fell, dropping his legendary weapon. After being let go by its wielder, the golden staff quickly snapped shut once again. Realizing they were victorious, a signal was made for a Wyvern Rider who was flying overhead to come down. The draconic creature that was being rode upon hovered above the ground, allowing for one of the barbarians to throw the unconscious Texan senator over onto its back. A Dark Mage had come over and confiscated the Arcane Flare tome and Creventis, figuring that they could be useful for their troops.
However, when he went to pick up the Trusted as well, curiosity quickly took over. The Gudorian wanted to figure out how it worked, but couldn’t seem to figure it out for a moment. Upon flicking a switch on the underside of the weapon, though, he was quickly electrocuted with Libra, as he was not the weapon’s chosen wielder. Giving up, he just dropped the gold staff, figuring there was no need to bring it along if it wasn’t capable of being used for anything more than painful shock.
The troops hurried off with their loot while the Wyvern Rider sped away with the captive in tow.
All that was left there out on the sand was a disarmed Rubio and the Trusted.
When Ted finally woke up, he felt immensely weak. Groaning slightly, he rolled over a little to try to get up, finding that his hands were firmly bound together in front of him. Whatever struggling he attempted to do failed, as the binding was strung in such a way that it nearly cut off circulation to his hands. There was still hope to get out of this situation, however. Both of the hands reached back over his right shoulder in anticipation of grabbing the weapon that usually sat there. However, that hope quickly vanished as the Zodiac seer realized that there was no Trusted on his back. Trying to piece everything together in his mind, it quickly became clear as to why he was unarmed, causing the young man to gasp slightly.
He remembered everything - the vision he’d had, the fight not long later, and then the fact that he and Rubio had lost the fight... Ted realized he had dropped the Celestial Staff much like how Marco’s weaponry had fallen out of his hands after his defeat just prior.
Seeing as he was completely unarmed and unable to get the painful bindings off his hands, the seer knew that he was in big trouble. Two individuals in long purple cloaks seemed to be headed in his direction as well, apparently having noticed that the captive had awakened. It was impossible to see their faces as the hoods attached to the cloaks they wore covered them up. The Lacertas tried to roll away - or at the very least to the furthermost wall of the cell he was being held in, but upon doing so, he came to realize that there was a purple cloak draped over him as well that hit him in the face when he shied away. Ted hadn’t noticed prior, but the bright brown cloak vest he usually wore had been removed, replaced with a dark purple cloak that hung over his tied up hands. The rest of his typical gray and brown outfit seemed to be intact, though. Odd, why had his kidnappers went through the trouble of taking his cloak off and not any of the rest of his clothes?
“You there.” One of the two hooded individuals said with a deep voice, standing at the bars of the cell. “It’s time for your ceremony. Rise to your feet or else you will be forced to do so.” Of course, Ted had no intention of obeying these freaks who had captured him, and thus he spat insults back at them.
“...I’d rather do a nosedive off Cruzen than follow any of your orders, you bloody bastards!” He hissed. “I’m going to make you wish you hadn’t done this to me!” There didn’t seem to be any physical reaction to the defiance, however. The two just nodded to one another before one made a quick flicking motion with his wrist. A second later, there was an immense pain that jolted throughout the Lacerta’s entire body. As he screamed out in agony, Ted realized that he had been forced to his feet by whatever terrible magic he was being subjected to. Finally, the pain disappeared as he just stood there at the far wall. As much as the Texan senator wanted to fall down onto his face again, he wasn’t so stupid as to do such a thing, knowing that he’d be forced to his feet once again in an equally painful way. Therefore, he just stood there, trying to regain his breath.
“Step forward.” The other cloaked individual said, his voice even deeper than his companion’s, opening the cell door so that the captive could come out. Realizing that refusal would mean being dragged out by painful magic, Ted complied, lumbering out between the two. He hadn’t realized it until he was standing right next to them, but the two men (he assumed they were men at least by their voices) were quite a bit taller than he was. Just then, a long, spindly hand reached out and grabbed the hood from behind the seer’s neck, forcibly pulling it up over his head. Ted had very nearly gotten whiplash from the surprisingly strong move, but now there was thick purple fabric half covering his eyes.
“You must keep your hood up at all times unless told otherwise.” The first man said. “Now you’re ready for your induction... We will bring you to where you need to be for the ceremony.”
Induction... Something about the whole situation told the Lacertas that it wasn’t going to be a very pleasant ceremony - at least for him. It was enough for figurative butterflies to start trying to escape from his stomach, leaving him feeling quite sick.