To See Another Day Chapter 3
Victory is Hollow
By Kain Servant
Beatrix was flung to the ground as an explosion rocked the earth. Gripping the cobblestones, she flung her head back and looked around. Even from her position she could see where the explosion had come from. Something to do with the huge cloud of dust and smoke rising from the east sector of town. Slowly cries came to her, cries that she didnt want to hear, but they came anyway. The wall has been breached! The city has been breached! Wearily she struggled to rise to her feet. Breached, but not overrun, not if she had anything to do with it.
A massive arm circled her and helped her back to her feet. Any other day she would have been happy with Steiners newfound romanticism, but not today. Steiner, you have more important things to worry about than me! Like why your knights are running away up there! She motioned toward the gate, and he turned swiftly.
It was true; of course, three knights were running away. And chasing after them was a gigantic ball of black flame. Steiner yelled something to them frantically, his arm leaving her shoulder, but his words were lost in the roar of the flame as it caught and consumed the knights. The flame disappeared, leaving only a few ashes that marked where the three unfortunate men had once been.
Um, general? Beatrix turned from the mortified Captain of the Knights, to peer down at Vivi, looking a little bit charred. He blinked up at her, Um the east wall is kinda gone.
I know, dammit. She thought angrily, but held the words back, What happened?
Blank cut in as he approached, smoothing his bright red hair, Well, those monsters apparently have friends. There were some red headed dudes out there, and they sent a big black comet down at Vivi. We escaped of course, but the wall cant use magick so Vivi called the comet thing doomsday.
Beatrix shuddered. In all her campaigning she had only seen doomsday used once. It had killed many soldiers on both sides, Then apparently whoever is leading these creatures doesnt care much about loss of life.
Steiner moved forward wearily, and Beatrix could see where tears had been hastily removed from his cheeks. He was a caring man, no matter how big of a front he put up. I ordered more soldiers to fill the gap where the wall was, and an airship is going that direction, they are going to try to gun down the mages before they can cause anymore pain.
Beatrix squeezed his arm comfortingly. She was going to have to make up for pushing him away tonight. But that was much later. Vivi, can you run a message to the west and north walls and tell them to target any of these mages, whatever they look like? I dont want anymore doomsday coming down on us.
Vivi nodded, then pointed to something behind her, Um they look kinda like that. She turned swiftly, trying to picture in her mind what a mist spawn black mage would look like. What Vivi was pointing at was a tall redheaded man, his face sunken far back into his hair. He was walking in a straight as a board military swagger, and his sword, black as night, was cutting holes in Alexandrian line with practiced ease. Beatrix winced, as Vivi finished, Except this guy has a sword.
She heard Steiner stiffen beside her, Ill-
Youll do no such thing, Steiner, now stay back. Ill take care of him. Arranging a few potions and medicines at her belt, she tightened her grip on Save the Queen, and rushed forward at the redheaded man, suddenly remembering who he looked like.
Stop! Face someone with a little skill, bastard! She called at him angrily. At her command, he whirled toward her, setting cold black eyes on her, driving into her skull.
Inferior! He hissed at her, raising his sword and slicing the air viciously. She didnt wait to show off. With a yell, Beatrix raced forward and swung her sword with all her might. Sparks flew from the collision like rain, and the big man grunted, then released his sword from the cross and swung at her head. She countered the blow calmly and returned it, counter and parry, block and duck, slash and draw. The man gave nothing, and she gave nothing in return.
After a few minutes she was panting, but her opponent seemed to lose no stamina at all, he simply continued stolidly hacking at her, his cold eyes glittering. Time to end this. She quietly told herself, quickly moving back a few paces so she could gather energy. Then with a cry she launched herself into the air, above the mans head.
Beatrix actually grinned when she saw him look up in surprise. But it was too late. Her sword came down like a bolt of lightning as she completed the climhazzard, splitting his skull, splitting his body. Then she took a step back with a deep breath, letting his two equal halves fall to the ground quietly.
Slowly her focus drifted from the battle, and she heard Blank quietly clapping behind her. She turned to him slowly, just as another familiar figure rushed up from behind him. Marcus?
The blunt-faced man barked at her, No! Dont turn your back on it, its not dead! Get out of the way!
Obediently she rolled out of the way, feeling a blade skim against her hair, inches away from her face. One startled look upwards confirmed all she needed to know. The two halves had come together into a whole once again, and they were now intent on killing her. The redheaded man raised his blade again.
Beatrix! A roar came from behind her, and suddenly a huge bulk jumped over her. A huge armored bulk with a sword. Steiner slashed once, twice, cross-slash, diamond, yelling angrily at the man the whole time.
Suddenly the big redheaded sword master just faded into nothing, leaving Steiner standing above her panting, his sword clean of blood and resting against his side.
Ia Strike. Should have thought of that myself. She mumbled, stumbling to her feet. Hastily Steiner helped her rise, and then supported her as she turned back to Marcus. Marcus and Blank were still there, but Vivi was gone, hopefully to deliver the warning to the other gates. But she had other things on her mind,
Marcus! How did you get here, and how did you know they didnt die?
He shrugged sheepishly, scratching at the bandanna tying his hair down, I came through the north gate. I killed one too, except it came back to life. Whered they come from?
Beatrix shook her head slowly, taking a deep breath, Well thank heavens youre here. Since Garnet probably has Zidane tied up doing something for her Blanks quick nod confirmed her guess, Than we are the only four blade masters in the city. Im sorry, but Im going to need your help, weve got to keep these beasts out of the city. Nods all around. Hastily she sketched out a plan in her mind. Alright, Steiner, gather all of your knights and group at the north gate. I want them dug in like this is a siege, not standing there waiting for black fire to eat them.
He winced at that, but she went on, Blank, go and get whatever air force we have left assembled. Take the East Side of the city, the air ships will be more useful since the wall is already down. Keep whatever soldiers are still there to back up the ships, but I want them far back, only for last resort. And I want you in the Red Rose, Blank, you know how to fly it and I dont want you getting killed. He saluted, then with another wipe at his red locks, took off toward the air docks.
As Beatrix turned to Marcus, she noticed that Steiner was gone as well. No sentimental goodbye then, hed better keep himself safe or shed Marcus, you and I will split the infantry of Alexandria. You take the West Side, take defensive positions, like I told Steiner, dont sit out in the open waiting for the fight. This is a dangerous battle we have on our hands, not some festival. Now go, and keep safe!
He saluted with a grunt, then took off running, his unsheathed sword banging against his leg. She sighed and swept the area with her eyes for a messenger. This was a dangerous battle.
Zidane forced his way through the castle, now crowding with refugees, Garnets bare shoulders held protectively under his arm. She felt different, usually if she was scared she melted to him like butter, but now she tried to distance herself, aloof...mysterious. Zidane knew it had something to do with that book, and he was going to get a look at whatever it was as soon as he could but now the city was in danger, that was much more important. At the highest tower they stopped, next to two large telescopes, and Garnet immediately moved to one and began scanning the city. Zidane could see how the battle was going well enough with his naked eye. Badly. He saw mist spawns pushing against the walls from all sides, in some places the walls were breached, and most of the east wall was entirely gone. He watched the Red Rose and the rest of the pitifully small air force of Alexandria move toward the east wall. That was a Beatrix order, he was sure of it. Beatrix always knew how to lose as few troops as possible. He rolled his eyes across the city to the west walls, where the Alexandrian soldiers were setting up a defensive line behind a makeshift wall. The only person Zidane could see that wasnt behind the wall was Marcus, who was busy slashing at the monsters that were moving forward slowly. What the hell is Marcus doing here? Hes going to get himself killed!
Of course there was no way to help him unless Garnet released him, and there wasnt much chance of that happening. He felt more and more like her servant or bodyguard every day, less like her husband. Of course, she was just keeping him near because she didnt want him to get hurt, but he would rather get hurt than just sit there.
His eye caught notice of something just behind the line of creatures trying to knock down the west wall, and he quickly jumped to the free telescope to check it out They looked like humans that human-looking guys were leading mist spawns was even less surprising than who the human-looking guys looked like.
Amarant? He whispered softly, then realized that he heard Garnet whispering the name too. Slowly he looked at her, and found her eyes staring at him accusingly; I told you that you should never have let him join us. Hes evil, I always told you that I wouldnt be surprised if he is one of those men out there, trying to destroy Alexandria.
He confronted her quietly, confronting himself at the same time, Just because Im a genome doesnt mean Im a mindless vessel. Just because Amarant looks like those redheads out there doesnt mean hes trying to destroy Alexandria.
Then where is he? She demanded.
I I dont know. But as soon as this battle is over Im going to find out.
Excuse me your highness? Zidane turned as quickly as Garnet did. The man standing there was no one he had ever seen before. Black hair streaked with gray, tanned face, fairly muscular build. He had a bow strapped across his back, and he was wearing traveling clothes. And Garnet recognized him.
Kain! What are you doing here?
I well, the orders were to come into the castle, so I did I just came up here because um, er the crowds down there were um crowded. Zidane wrinkled his nose in disgust. Why his wife knew an idiot like this was beyond him. And her next statement was even further beyond him.
Zidane can you go down and make sure everyone is alright down there? Beatrix and Steiner and all I need to speak with this man privately. Something to do with the book, if it didnt have something to do with the book, than Zidane was going to kill the graying man for what it had to do with. But he bowed slightly, then stalked away. That was what he wanted to do anyway if his wife was going to be private, then she could just be that way.
Silence ruled for a few moments after Zidane left, and then Kain stammered, Zidane? The Zidane?
Garnet nodded, then stumbled through a lie, though she didnt know why, Yeah, hes my protector. Her protector? Was she going to lie to this man about having a husband? What had gotten into her head? Kain, I need to talk to you about that book. Now.
He scratched his head slowly, Well I told you, I er, I dont really know anything about it, xept that its a gift from the elder.
She didnt really know why, but she was going to tell this man everything about that book. Well this elder of yours sure has some weird things stored up in his library. Kain, that book told me what was going to happen today, it told me what will happen sometime in the future. Its magic, Kain, or something just as bad, and I want to know where he got it.
The expression on Kains face showed pure shock, but he kept scratching his head, Well He looked so cute when he was confused, she thought with a smile. Where did that come from? Hes had it ever since Ive been in the library. That one and a few more like it, all bound in gold and stuff Um I thought they were just pretty volumes, maybe some old classics or plays or somn, when he wanted to give you one I just thought it was a present as tribute for being your village.
His eyes began melting her again, and she hastily looked away, Well maybe he saw it as tribute too, it will be very useful if I decide to use it, but some how it feels dangerous to touch it, if it can reveal my future Kain, I am scared that it might tell me I am going to die soon. There are not very many pages left blank, what if the end of my life comes. I do not want to be told that I am going to die on a certain day. As she blurted out her fear, tears sprang to her eyes voluntarily, and she sank her face into her hands, sobbing quietly. All of the sobbing flew out the window, however, when she felt a rough, but gentle hand slide to her shoulder. Kain he radiated warmth and love that she needed, that she wanted that she Shutup! She berated her mind, then looked up into Kains eyes, biting back the tears that were still welling up behind her eyes,
Kain, Id like you to see the book, maybe you know more than you think you know about it. Come with me. She offered him her hand, and he nodded with a nervous smile, then slipped his arm through hers. She led him away with doubtful thoughts still plaguing her mind.
As Zidane walked, his thoughts of Garnet drifted away, and slowly turned into the thoughts of being a commander. How did an army this large make it this close without warning. Had they destroyed every city in their path, every living thing that tried to deliver a message of warning? Alexandria had scouts, planes and men, had they all died unknowing of the danger? Zidane winced at that thought, so many had died defending Alexandria already, and so many were going to. All that was needed to defend the city was for Garnet to summon an eidolon and order it to destroy everything that was attacking, but she had other thoughts in her mind.
Hastily he shook his thoughts of Garnet out of his mind again, and set off toward the west wall. He was going to settle the score with a few mist spawn.
On his way he met Vivi, who was plodding along slowly, talking to himself. The little black mage had delivered the warning to every sector of the city himself, and now he was trying to figure out which spell he should cast that wouldnt hurt anyone else, but could destroy the redheaded men.
Zidane quickly picked up that the redheaded men could only be destroyed, they couldnt be killed simply with a sword. They were also immensely powerful. Of course Vivi knew he was more powerful (even if he didnt show that he knew it) but the mage was still pensive,
Do you think Death will kill them? I dont like using dark magic, but if thats what I need to do to stop them
Zidane shrugged, Maybe it will work, try it. Lets see if Marcus has figured anything out, maybe he can help you. Zidane was embarrassed to admit he knew almost nothing about magic. Sure, he had seen the little sparkles around Vivi and Garnet and Eiko, and what the little sparkles did, but he couldnt name anything. Maybe death was the one where the skeleton guy came out of the ground and tried to stab people. He had had that one cast on him quite a few times, and well he had dodged most of the time. Nasty stuff.
The wall came into sight as the sun began to go down, leaving the world blackening behind it. It had been a long day, and would be much longer before it was over, Zidane imagined. It was hard to believe the day had started with a mock sword fight in a theatre a happy day, a day for relaxing and enjoying life. Not a day for life or death battles.
Marcus had finally retreated behind the makeshift wall, which was getting taller slowly. The thick man was bleeding from a dozen or more places, but all in all he looked whole, and he was still fighting like he had never been touched. Most of the soldiers were not using their swords, instead they used bows or magic, the ones that could use magic. The defense plan seemed to be working well, but, then again, none of the redheaded men had tried to attack yet.
Marcus greeted Zidane and Vivi with a weary wave, Hey. The Queen finally let ya test your steel?
So this was testing steel to Marcus? Zidane didnt want to see a real battle then, Yeah, she got busy with other things. Looks like you cleared out most of the monsters, any commanders around?
Marcus nodded and pointed to a small rise just outside the gate, There they are, at least ten or more. Theyre up to something, and really I dont feel like fighting whatever it is, not when you cant kill these guys like normal enemies.
Zidane nodded and shuddered at the same time, Well, I hear that Steiner killed one, so there has to be some way we dont know about. Vivi said hes going to try casting Death on them. Is there any way you can try on all of them at the same time?
The little mage looked inwardly for a moment, then nodded slowly, I can cast on a few at a time, if thats what you want. Ill try.
Zidane nodded and grinned, then touched the blade of his sword, Well try soon, cause here they come!
Night was dawning when Garnet closed the door and left the chaotic castle and city behind her. Smoothly she released Kains arm and swept across the room to the book lying on her bed, closed and latched. I dont remember latching it. She wondered in puzzlement. But then, the day had been going so fast that she could barely remember a thing that she had done. I only met this man this morning, and now Now nothing. Now she was going to show him the book.
Slowly she sank down onto her bed, motioning for him to take a seat next to her. He did so nervously, and she opened the clasp once again. See, heres the book, it has everything important thats ever been in my life in it. And here She flipped quickly to where the half-finished page was. When she reached it she took a deep breath. There were only five blank pages left of her life. Five pages left to be filled before her life ended. That wasnt something she wanted to dwell on.
And there, there it says Creatures of and not of the heated water rose to snuff out life, rose against the city of the Eidolon. Unless heated water is something other than mist in Macema, and there is another city named after an Eidolon besides Alexandria that was attacked recently, then this is talking about today.
Kain blinked and peered at the page, then turned to her and shrugged, I dont see anything.
That caught her off guard, What do you mean you do not see anything? Look, man, its right there in front of your eyes!
The pages are blank. He said, rather sheepishly, All of them are. I never saw a word in them. His eyes looked concerned, and for a moment she wasnt sure if he was concerned for her safety or concerned that she was going crazy. But she had a theory rather quickly,
Maybe since this is my life, it was made so that only I can see it. Kain, see if you can open the book She quickly shut it and latched it, Now. See if you can open the latch.
He took the book obediently, and then fiddled around with the latch for a moment, prying with his big fingers. Finally he handed it back over to her. Nope. I could probably break it, but I cant open the latch like you could.
Ah wonderful She felt the sob welling up in her throat again, So here I am with a book that only I can read out of, telling me things about my life I dont really want to know, and if I say anything to anyone about it, they will think I am crazy!
Again Kains hand touched her shoulder lightly, very lightly. As if she wasnt his queen, just a scared girl just like she felt. Princess of the Eidolon Princess of the Horn, whatever that meant, simply a scared girl
With a cry she flung herself against Kains chest, dropping the book. She did not heed it as it thumped heavily to the floor, simply wrapped her arms around Kain and clung to him like a limp rag, I just want my past to go away I just want hold me, Kain please hold me.
And he held her, gently, a fletcher who had just met a queen and was now sitting in her chamber with his arms around her he held her gently, and let her hot tears run down against his shoulder.
Regent Cid sat back contentedly puffing on his cigar as he watched the Hilda Garde V roar past the scenery beneath him. Oh yes, this was his fastest ship yet, thats why he hadnt built a new Hilda Garde for three years. Of course he was always building new ships, but usually he was never content with his personal ship, so he build another one, then another one. This one was just about perfect.
A few crewmembers walked here and there, but the craft was very low maintenance. He had stuck with the same model from the Hilda Garde two, just adding two more engines, four more guns, a fifteen-foot pool, and a game room. The fifteen-foot pool was for Eiko, of course. He didnt like swimming, and he wanted nothing more than to make his daughter and his wife happy. And the game room was for him, if he ever had a spare moment in his busy schedule.
Now his busy schedule was taking him to Alexandria for his yearly meeting with his niece, Queen Garnet. She really was something. Not only did she catch the eye of every male that had ever seen her, she was strong enough to run the kingdom with only a little help. Of course some of that little help came from Zidane, his own Tantalus-grown boy. Cid was proud of Zidane, how far he had come, almost as much as he was proud of Garnet.
Regent Cid? Erins voice came from the cockpit, and he leaned toward it,
What is it, Erin?
Cid, Alexandrias under attack! The voice was urgent now, urgent enough to get him on his feet and running to have a look. The sight of smoke and fire greeted his eyes with his first view of Alexandria. Quickly he grabbed a telescope and looked closer. Hordes of monsters were teeming all around the city. Smaller figures lingered behind, probably their commanders or just some other kind of monster that were waiting for the city to be overrun. And it was being overrun. Even from the altitude they were at, Cid could see the breaks in all the walls, and he could see that the Alexandrian army was miniscule compared to its attackers.
Call Eiko, I may need her. And swoop closer to the ground. Erin turned to go as Cid took the wheel, And ready the cannons! I want to blast those bastards as soon as were in range.
Yes sir, he wasnt going to sit by and let his allies crumble while he watched. It was time to fight!
Zidane soon knew exactly how Marcus felt as the battle came once again. There were more mist spawns, and the more they fought the higher into the clouds Zidane went. The euphoria of battle was overwhelming, he didnt know how he had ever forgotten that.
Vivi was casting random spells on the redheaded men, who had stopped outside the gates still. He was testing them, probing them for weakness, but so far he had found none. And luckily the redheaded men did not retaliate.
The black mage shook his head wearily as he slumped next to Zidane, who was looking around eagerly for the next mist spawn to come, I cant, Zidane, theres no spell I know that can make them disappear.
Zidane scratched his chin. There didnt seem to be anymore monsters. Too bad. Well why dont you cast that stop thing on them, so they cant attack us. Ill see what we can do after that, maybe I can capture one so we can find out why they attacked.
Vivi blinked twice, then nodded, That might work. Lemme try.
The glow that surrounded the black mage this time was larger, and took longer. With one last unintelligible sound, Vivi launched the spell at the group of fifteen (Zidane had counted them out) redheaded men standing with their arms folded. Suddenly even their small movements stopped. They were like stone. Of course their eyes widened in confusion, but any movement on their part was completely quenched.
Zidane dusted his hands off before gripping his sword again. Alright, Marcus, lets find out how to get rid of these guys.
Slowly Zidane moved toward them. He wasnt going to be stupid but the euphoria was great, the bliss that was building in the back of his mind tremendous. He was nearing a trance, and he knew it. The black eyed men stared at him hatefully as he stopped in front of them. Hiya. My name is Zidane, and Im going to try to find a way to destroy you. So spit it out.
He felt Marcus rolling his eyes behind him, but he didnt care. The redheads just stared at him, not moving, not changing expression. Finally one of them said softly, Inferior, why do you tempt us? What comes is inevitable, standing in the way will bring your death.
Zidane blinked, What comes? Um sorry but youre the ones who cant move right now, not me. Why dont we reevaluate the odds here? Two guys with swords against fifteen dumbasses who cant move a muscle. I win.
Stand out of the way. We only want what we need. The voice was monotone, but it still sent a chill rippling into Zidanes heart, despite the still heated night. When we fulfill our need we will trouble no longer. Step aside, leave this planet, and we will not harm you.
And whats this need? Zidane began to ask, but suddenly a rumbling beneath his feet stopped his words. The ground exploded, sending him flying ten feet back. He gasped and looked around angrily. There were two more redheads, obviously mages, waving their staffs and beginning new spells. But with the pulsing light he began to feel ebbing out of him, he knew that their efforts were useless. He had reached trance.
Garnet did not know how it happened, all she knew was when she recovered from her crying, she was lying full-length on the bed, her head still pressed against Kains chest. The man was just sitting there quietly, stroking her shoulder and murmuring soft words to her.
She had never been this close to a man, especially one she didnt know. Of course she had always wanted to, but she never let herself forget her past, what she had done to the world, the pain she had caused. Now she could see nothing of that, she could only see the muscles of Kains chest rising and falling with his heartbeat, she only felt the coarse material of his shirt under her head. Slowly she raised her hands to grasp it, and she found the collar of the shirt.
He gave a start when he realized she was awake, but he continued to sit calmly, probably not sure of what he could do around his queen. Her hands still trembled as she began unbuttoning the buttons of his rough shirt, one by one. He realized what she was doing, and began stammering,
Y-your highness. I-I mean, Im just, I, er, y-you have a husband and all a-and
We are having marital difficulties, Kain. She said, still rather breathless from her long cry. Please love me, Kain, please love me. The shirt was unbuttoned, and she pressed her hands to his bare chest, feeling the hair, the rough skin, and the scars
She didnt really realize it at first, but suddenly she found that he had been easing her dress down her chest as well, and she was naked down to the waist. She would have blushed, but this was not the time for her to blush, this was her time, what she wanted to do, and she would do it.
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