Chapter Thirty Six
What You Do Not Know
The pole was about two meters in length and made out of solid wood. It stood, looming like some great remnant of a giant, in the middle of cage, towering through the bars and reaching into the weepy dark sky.
With Meio's promise of retribution echoing in their heads, Sakura and Syaoran obediently marched into the yawning jaws of the cage gate.
An Auren soldier followed after them, chained and bound their hands and wrists tightly into heavy metal links, and then set about to loop it three times around the looming pole.
With rain running down into their eyes, the soldier shoved them to the soggy ground and gave the chain a ruthless yank to test its integrity. Satisfied that the captives were securely bound, he ducked out of the cage.
A second soldier swung the heavy cage gate shut with a resounding clang and then locked it with a clink.
Meijo stood outside, looking into the cage, her eyes dark and unreadable.
"I know that nothing will hold you for long," Meijo said solemnly. "Cages, prisons, chains… nothing is a match for magic." She grimaced. "However," she reached over and grabbed Wes'en. "If you escape or try anything, I'll personally slit this boy's throat."
"Meijo-" Sakura pleaded in a desperate last attempt, trying to change the girl's mind, but Meijo would have none of it. She turned to the soldier next to her and barked, "Don't take your eyes off those two. Station another ten around the perimeter. If they so much as wiggle their fingers, I want you to send a man immediately and let me know."
The soldier nodded.
Then Meijo turned back to her two captives. "Don't do anything foolish." With that warning, she turned on her heels and left with a handful of her men, dragging Wes'en behind her like a beaten up puppy.
Once their Captain was gone, the Auren soldiers then proceeded to usher in the rest of their other prisoners into two adjoining cages beside Sakura and Syaoran's.
Two of Wes'en's friends – the two musicians – went into one cage, chained and bound the same way.
Councillor Bra'co and the singer went in the other one.
Once everyone had been tied up and locked up, the soldier that had been put in charge summoned another three archers. Clearly, no one was taking any chances tonight.
Syaoran glanced to either side of him and found his barbarian companions looking down dejectedly. Everyone was soaked to the skin but the Prince hardly noticed. He shifted his arms and felt the cold weight of the chains on his wrists and ankles.
"Don't move!" one of the soldiers warned.
The Prince could hear the fear and uneasiness in his tone. "I'm just getting comfortable," Syaoran growled, but he stopped moving all the same.
Beside him, Sakura had barely said another word.
After the silence stretched on and on, Syaoran turned his head, trying to look at her, "We can't stay here like this."
Sakura glanced at him as if noticing his presence for the first time. "Uh… yes…" she answered, so quietly Syaoran had to strain to hear her. "I guess not…"
The Prince knew what was occupying the emerald-eyed girl's mind. "We'll find a way. We'll get out of here," he said reassuringly with a confidence he didn't quite feel. "We'll find your brother."
Sakura looked away, but she nodded. "How are we going to get out?" she asked. "Meijo… Wes'en…"
"I know," Syaoran grimaced. "She's clever." Meijo had stuck them into a dilemma. Escape and they would kill Wes'en and lose the alliance. Don't escape and they would be brought to Sasella who would most likely kill them.
"Maybe…" Sakura murmured. "Maybe if we're fast enough… we could get all of the soldiers before they'd be able to run and tell Meijo…"
Syaoran frowned as he stared into the rain and darkness. Ten soldiers, Meijo had said, plus three additional archers, but the Prince had a feeling that clever Meijo had most likely gone the extra step and stationed five soldiers more somewhere in the dark that they couldn't see. "We can't possibly do ten simultaneously…"
"Sasella could do hundreds!"
"But we can't," Syaoran muttered. "We don't know what spells Sasella has learned before… Everything I know comes from Kero and he hasn't taught me any large-scale massacring spell… Do you know any?"
Sakura hung her head. "No," she admitted.
Syaoran gritted his teeth. "There has to be another way…"
Sakura offered no further suggestions. None of the other barbarians spoke either. After being captured and having Wes'en held as a hostage, they seemed to have lost their spirit.
"Councillor Bra'co," Syaoran called quietly. The barbarian glanced up from where he had been staring at a mud puddle.
"You're part of the Council for Chief Yu'qun. You must have an idea-"
"Don't you dare try anything foolish, Outsider!" Bra'co growled. "They have Wes'en hostage! If anything happens to him, I'll kill you myself!"
Syaoran was steadily losing patience. Everyone seemed to have given up. "Listen here, Bra'co," he said in an icy tone, "None of this would have happened if you had just stayed behind! Why the hell did you come into the camp!? And to be caught-!"
"Oh shut up!" the singer beside Bra'co suddenly shot up. "We don't listen to your commands, Outsider!"
Syaoran glared. "You listen to Wes'en, who has gotten us all into this mess!"
The truth in his words silenced the barbarians. They looked away glumly.
"I repeat," Syaoran said with impatience, suspicion starting to gnaw at him. "What were you doing in the camp in the first place?"
Bra'co would not meet his stare. He mumbled, "Came in… to find you… took too long…" The brawny barbarian trailed off, the rest of his sentence swallowed by the dark and rain.
Sakura scoffed. "Or maybe you came in for the Orbs," she said matter-of-factly. She had known what they were after from the beginning.
All four barbarians stirred and Syaoran knew the truth of it. "You stupid lot!"
"Oh, you're one to talk!" Bra'co retorted. "Sneaking into the enemy camp for a… a girl! Now we're all just going to die!"
"We are not going to die!" the singer said shrilly.
The sudden raise of voice made an Auren soldier approach the cage and clang his spear against the bars. "Be quiet!" he commanded.
When the soldier had retaken his place amongst his other comrades, Bra'co said, lowering his voice, "Hey, you!" He gave an impertinent nod towards the Prince's direction. "You get us out of this mess!"
Sakura had had enough of the disregard and blame she could hear in the barbarian tones. Furiously, she hissed, "You think of something, fumot, or shut your trap!"
The sudden fury Bra'co heard in the young girl's voice rendered him speechless with surprise. To think she would use the derogatory term against him. It was the singer who came up with, "No, you get us out of this! I'm not going to die here! Not today!"
"No one cares about you," Sakura said. Clearly, she had lost all her patience and tact. She was furious and full of grief at the same time.
Syaoran bit back a laugh as he saw the shocked expression cross the singer's face.
"H-How dare y-you! Do you know who I am!? I am-"
"Lu'ten!" Bra'co cut in sharply.
But Lut'en ignored the Councillor and plunged ahead recklessly. "I am the sixth grandson of Chief Yu'qun! You! You be careful how you speak to me!"
Shock ran across Sakura's face. Syaoran stared. He knew he shouldn't be all that surprised. Every arrogant and idiotic barbarian he had come to meet was bound to be a grandson of the Chief.
"Lower your voice, you idiot!" Sakura commanded once she had recovered, clearly thinking the same thing. "If they know who you are, they'll put you with Wes'en!"
Lu'ten glared back proudly but at least had the intelligence to swallow his next words.
Bra'co groaned. "Those two over there-" He pointed to the two musicians held in the next cage, "Those are the twelfth and twenty-second grandson of the Chief. So… you see… if you don't get us out of here, Chief Yu'qun's going to lose four grandsons and I don't have to tell you…"
Bra'co trailed off, leaving the rest unsaid.
"Well, we're sort of stuck in a dilemma, if you hadn't noticed," Sakura replied sourly. "If we escape, Wes'en dies. If we don't escape, we'll die sooner or later."
"Don't- Don't you let me die here!" Lu'ten wailed and started to struggle violently in his chains. "Bra'co, do something! Get me out of here! I'm not going to die here!"
"Shut up!" one of the guards threatened, unsheathing his sword. The rain pattered on the naked steel and made it gleam and glisten terribly.
Lu'ten swallowed hard and squeezed his eyes shut, making not a sound. The guard eyed the rest of them with menacing eyes and then re-sheathed his sword.
"We need to do something, Sakura," Syaoran whispered after everyone had calmed down a bit. "We can't sit here waiting for Touya to get back."
Sakura nodded. As much as she wanted to, she knew that waiting for Touya to appear would be their death sentence. The emotionless General would order for their deaths in an instance.
"We have to bring Meijo to our side," she said. "If we have her, we can get out of this with all the barbarians."
Syaoran sighed, confused. "I don't understand… even after we told her that Sasella can't hurt her family in the West, she still wouldn't help us…"
Sakura shook her head. She didn't understand it herself.
She turned to Syaoran.
"Take my hand."
Sakura glanced at him, and hesitated. "Why?"
Syaoran grinned at her with uncertainty. "I have an idea."
Sakura shifted, twisted, and finally managed to place her hand into his. "What kind of idea?"
"What are you two doing over there!?" one of the antsy soldiers demanded to know.
"Just two people holding hands," Syaoran answered sheepishly. "Nothing to see, move along."
The soldier took a step forward and peered at them as closely as he could. "J-Just don't do anything! O-Or else!"
Syaoran held up his other hand as if to show he was innocent of all accusations. The soldier mumbled and grumbled to himself but backed up, thinking it better to leave them alone than to go in there.
"Psst!" Lu'ten whispered, his voice sharp with anxiety. "What are you up to? Are you going to get us out? What about Wes'en?"
Syaoran wavered between ignoring him or not, and chose to ask instead, "So… the Orbs… I thought you barbarians didn't think it existed."
Bra'co's face became stony. Lu'ten looked as if someone had just punched him in the gut.
"Well?" Sakura prodded when neither barbarian offered an explanation.
"Don't tell them anything," Bra'co warned. Lu'ten fidgeted.
"Fine," Sakura said with just the right touch of irritation. "I guess when we get out of here; we'll just leave you here to rot."
"You wouldn't!" Lu'ten gasped, dimly biting the bait.
"She's bluffing," Bra'co hissed, the cleverer of the two, and tried to kick Lu'ten to shut his mouth.
Syaoran smirked. "Nope," he said. "All that really matters is getting Wes'en out of here. He is second favourite, you know. And you… well, I don't think Chief Yu'qun would mind losing a couple of annoying grandsons."
"What…!? No… I…!"
Sakura shook her head, feigning impatience. "Let's get out of here," she said quietly to Syaoran, but just loud enough for Lu'ten to hear.
"Hey! Hey! Wait!" Lu'ten whined. He only heard Bra'co faintly in the background of his panic-stricken mind. He wasn't going to die, and certainly not left behind. "I'll tell you!"
Syaoran grinned at Sakura. He had to admit they made a great team. Then he turned solemnly to Lu'ten and waited for his explanation.
And Lu'ten told them all.
"Of course we think the Orbs exist!" he exclaimed. "But grandfather makes the final decisions! And he didn't think they did… so… so…"
Next to him, Bra'co heaved a sigh of defeat and stared gloomily up into the pouring sky.
Lu'ten continued hastily, "So Wes'en had this idea… that if we snuck into the camp, we could steal the Orbs. Obviously… y-you can see why they would be really useful…"
"The camp is huge. How did you plan on finding it?" Sakura demanded to know.
"I… I don't know! We were just following Wes'en… and then we ran into that girl… Mejo or whatever her name is, and the rest you know…"
"There's something you're not telling us," Syaoran said, frowning, gauging Lu'ten's expression. He had interrogated enough spies and enemies to know the signs of a person withholding crucial information.
"There's nothing else," Bra'co snapped.
Lu'ten glanced at the Councillor who was sending him glares and silent threats, and then he looked at Syaoran. Did he want to take a chance with his life? No. He didn't. Nothing was worth dying for.
"Y-Yes, there's more… We wanted the Orbs because-"
"Alright, that's quite enough!" Bra'co interrupted, furious.
But nothing was going to deter Lu'ten from surviving. He ploughed on ahead. "Wes'en wanted to use the Orbs and throw grandfather out of power!"
The ensuing silence was almost deafening.
"We-We were about to leave for the plan when your group rode into camp, demanding grandfather to save some girl, princess or something. We couldn't leave then, it would have been suspicious. Then your annoying historian friend wouldn't leave us alone! We… I mean, Wes'en thought about killing him but he could use magic so…"
"Wow," Sakura murmured. "I don't think your grandfather deserved to be stabbed in the back by his second favourite."
"Wes'en thought grandfather was growing senile. And he didn't think Pol'ix was worthy to be heir…"
Bra'co erupted into a string of words in his native tongue. But the damage had been done.
"And once Wes'en came into power, he wouldn't ally with Proto, would he?" Syaoran asked quietly.
"No," Lu'ten agreed. "Once he had those Orbs, he wouldn't be scared of any magic."
"This is why you barbarians never conquer any of the kingdoms," Sakura murmured. "You fight amongst yourselves all the time."
Bra'co scowled. He didn't like what was happening but he couldn't deny the truth in Sakura's words.
"So?" Lu'ten asked, his eyes darting back and forth. "Are we getting out of here or what?"
Sakura glanced at Syaoran, worried. She saw the look on his face. "You have an idea, don't you?"
"Yes," he murmured. "It's risky."
She nodded. Unconsciously, her hand held on tighter to Syaoran's.
"When Kero wanted to cast a high level magic spell, he tapped and used the magic of others."
Sakura's eyes grew wide as she immediately understood what the Prince planned to do. She looked down to their entwined fingers. "Will it work?" she asked breathlessly. Her heart was beating fast and she wasn't sure if it was because of the situation or because of Syaoran's fingers around hers.
"It will," Syaoran replied with more confidence than he felt. "With your help, I can cast the sleep spell across this area. The guards would all fall asleep simultaneously."
Sakura looked into his eyes and saw worry. She asked the question. "What if one escapes…? What if we miss one…?"
Syaoran looked unhappy. "Then Wes'en dies. But if we stay here and do nothing, all of us will die."
Sakura hesitated and then nodded slowly. There simply was no other way. "When do you want to do it?"
"Hey, guys," Lu'ten spoke up, having spent the last couple of minutes staring intently at the two and not making out a single word. "What's the plan?"
Syaoran ignored him. "When the shift changes. That's when they'll be most vulnerable."
"And their number will also double," Sakura whispered, shocked.
The Prince nodded. "It's risky, I know. Unless you have a better plan…?"
"No," she admitted. "When does the shift change?"
"In a couple of hours."
Sakura raised an eyebrow. "So why are we holding hands now?"
He cleared his throat uncomfortably. If it hadn't been so dark, Sakura might have seen the Prince blush. "To get used to the feeling, you know…"
Sakura smiled, knowing a lie when she heard one. But she said nothing. She liked the feeling of hand. She settled back to wait patiently.
Lu'ten, on the other hand, only became worse as the minutes ticked on. Finally, Bra'co could take no more, and clubbed him over the head. Lu'ten fell silent, unconscious.
"He's going to have me killed for that," Bra'co said dejectedly.
"When you save his life, I don't think he'll mind," Syaoran advised.
And then they fell silent for the long wait.
Half an hour later, the rain finally stopped. It didn't really help much as all of them were soaked to the bone by that time.
The guards stood at attention.
The night dragged on slowly.
"So…" Sakura said quietly after another hour of silence had passed. "Are we going to talk about it?"
Beside her, Syaoran shifted slightly. "Talk about…?"
She glanced at him. "The… demens incantation…"
She felt him tense. After a considerable moment, he said, "I don't want to talk about it, Sakura."
"Okay," she agreed. "I just want to let you know… if I could go back, I would change everything." Everything.
She tightened her grip on his fingers. "I mean it, Syaoran." He glanced at her as she continued, "I want you to know… that whatever comes, you can trust me. Because I'll…"
She trailed off, not sure how to say the rest.
Syaoran said, "You'll always be the one."
Meijo paced her tent, agitated. The rain had stopped. Dawn wasn't far off. But none of that served to improve her mood.
She was nervous. Jumpy. Her heart was fluttering and she was…
Meijo was scared.
She glanced at her captive, Wes'en who had fallen asleep, bound to the foot of her bed.
Meijo herself hadn't slept a wink.
What should she do?
She wrung her hands and paced to and fro.
Touya would be back soon, she knew.
The last report she had of the General was that he was on the verge of storming into Wako's camp. Chief Wako had erected walls around his camp and the siege against his camp had lasted little more than five days.
It was done.
General Touya had won.
It only remained if he had found… it.
Meijo tried to stop moving but her feet wouldn't listen. She rubbed her eyes, tired but too full of adrenaline to feel actual fatigue.
No, she wouldn't think about them. It was their own fault. Of all the stupidest things they could have done…! They had walked right into the enemy camp!
"Stupid, stupid, stupid!" Meijo muttered under her breath, frowning and trying to deny any grief she might have felt. Sakura was going to die. Syaoran was going to die. They brought it on themselves. Meijo was not to blame. She was only doing what she could.
"You really care about them, don't you?"
Meijo froze and jerked her head up in the barbarian's direction. She hadn't noticed that he had woken up.
The few hours she had spent with the barbarian, she had come to detest him. His constant yapping gave her headaches and his smirks infuriated her.
When he had fallen asleep, she had given a sigh of relief.
But now he was awake.
"Shut up," she muttered, not in the mood to swap any more words with Wes'en.
"Well, I suppose this might be my last few hours. It's really unfair if I can't even talk."
Meijo stalked towards him, angry. "Shut up or I'll hurt you!"
But Wes'en was having none of that. "Will it hurt more than death!?" he challenged. "Go ahead! I'm a dead man anyway! Maybe after you have me killed, you'll pace here and worry!"
Meijo would have cuffed him right there and then if it hadn't been for his last words. "Worry?" she asked in a pitched voice. "Why would I be worried?"
Wes'en laughed, and gave a tug. His hands were bound tightly. No escape there. "It's pretty obvious, isn't it?" he slurred. "You want that Prince and that girl to win."
Wes'en looked at her with a cocky smile. "I'm right," he murmured. "You hate Sasella!"
This time Meijo did smack him.
But Wes'en wasn't going to let anything stop him. "I don't get it," he spat out blood. Meijo did not hit like a girl. "If you want them to win, why don't you just help them?"
Meijo glared at her captive. Her very stubborn captive. He just did not take a hint.
And after hours of this, it really could wear someone down.
She sighed and gave up. She had tried everything to stop Wes'en from speaking to her. She had threatened his life, brandished her weapon, and had now even resorted to physical violence. Nothing helped.
"So?" Wes'en wanted to know.
"It's not that easy," Meijo muttered miserably.
Wes'en considered this for a moment. "It is," he said firmly.
Meijo stared at him, annoyed.
Wes'en was no longer looking at her. He was staring, lost in his own thoughts. "I was going to betray my grandfather. Kill Pol'ix. I was going to take everything and become a Chief."
"Good for you," Meijo said noncommittally. If there was one thing she had learned growing up, it was to not give two coins about other people's lives.
Wes'en grew angry at her tone. He had just told her something that he had barely dared to even think about just a few months ago. He had told her something personal and important and this was her reaction?
"Hey!" he shouted to gain her attention again. "It's a pretty big deal, alright? I'm just showing you that it's not as hard as it might seem. We're dealing with the same case here. You can-"
"We are not the same!" Meijo erupted. Her fists were clenched at her side and she was pale. She knew the sun was breaking horizon and rising slowly. Efficient, cruel and cold Touya would ride into camp in the morning. He would bring… No! She wouldn't think about that right now. She was dealing with Wes'en. "You're just some entitled spoiled brat. Greedy for more. You want to kill your own family all for what? Power? Wealth? I want to kill Sasella for other reasons!"
"G-Greedy?" Wes'en spluttered, genuinely surprised. He tried to stand up in protest but couldn't. "I am going to make my tribe better! Grandfather doesn't understand that Pol'ix is weak! Pol'ix is heir only because he is oldest! The fool will bring our tribe down-"
"That's what they all say!" Meijo retorted frustrated. "When Sasella took the West, it was because she was going to make the West powerful!"
"And what's wrong with being powerful!?"
Meijo glowered and for a minute, the two stared at each other. Then Meijo turned away. "Nothing," she muttered. She couldn't believe she had let the barbarian rile her up so much. She didn't have time for him. She had to think.
Could she save Sakura somehow?
If Sakura and Syaoran were to escape under her watch, Sasella would kill her. Sasella would kill her family. She closed her eyes, headache pounding just behind her eyes.
"Exactly," Wes'en was saying, "So now that you understand, why don't you untie me? We can team up-"
"With your skills in combat, you could-"
"And you're also the Captain. You could-"
"I said shut up!"
Wes'en closed his mouth and stared unhappily at Meijo.
"You, and Sakura, and Syaoran, none of you understand anything! None of you understand Sasella's power!" Meijo paced. "You think your little efforts can stop her? You're wrong. You'll all end up dead."
"At least we'd have fought for something we believed in."
Meijo clenched her jaw. "I do what I do for my family."
"You're really no better than that General Touya Kinomoto."
"What!?" Meijo was shocked. She was nothing like Touya. The stories people told about him weren't even the worst things he had done for Sasella. She shuddered.
"You obey Sasella without question," Wes'en said. "How many bad things have you done without a second thought?"
So many… So many things…
"I-It was for my family-"
Wes'en actually laughed. "And when will it end?"
Meijo pressed her lips together. "If I do Sasella's bidding, my family will remain safe in the West."
Wes'en shook his head. "See, that's what I don't understand! Magic… magic is short distance. If Sasella is Aure, how can she hurt your family?"
"You don't understand what Sasella can do… None of you understand…"
Meijo trembled and closed her eyes briefly.
"Stop saying that!" Wes'en exclaimed, growing angry. "What can Sasella do!? What can she possibly do that you'd be so frightened of her?"
Meijo wanted to tell the barbarian that only fools weren't frightened by Queen Sasella. The words were on the tip of her tongue before she changed her mind.
Maybe… maybe she should tell him exactly what Sasella could do. What she was doing at every second…
Her eyes met Wes'en's beautiful cavern blue ones and then slowly… she told him.
"Now!" Syaoran said under his breath.
He was holding her hand, and as he said the word, he felt Sakura's magic touch his. It engulfed him, poured over him, and merged with his own power.
Sakura's magic was warm and light and it fit his perfectly. His eyes widened in surprise as he felt his own power leap boundaries.
If he had felt powerful before, that was nothing compared to this. Then Syaoran realized just how much more powerful Sasella really was. She had harvested the magic of so many families…
It took a lot of willpower to tear his concentration back from drifting and focusing on the large task he had to do.
He looked at Sakura and she smiled gently at him.
With her power, he could wipe out all the Auren soldiers guarding them. He closed his eyes and felt. With his magic amplified, he could see exactly where the soldiers were.
He would have to be fast.
His fingers tingled and where his hand held Sakura's now it felt it was on fire. He had to do it now.
He had to make the symbol. Utter the words. And do it all before the soldiers could react.
Syaoran opened his eyes, the location of the soldiers imprinted into his mind, and moved.
The symbols were drawn in a split second, the words whispered quickly, and the magic was cast.
A small half-muffled shout went up but by then it was too late. The soldiers guarding them fell simultaneously. And the backup soldiers fell as well.
"D-Did you do it?" Bra'co asked, turning his head around frantically trying to see if anyone had escaped to report them.
No one had.
"Yes," Syaoran whispered, barely daring to speak. It had been so easy. So effortless. With Sakura's magic, everything had been right.
Still holding her hand, he cast another spell and the locks tying them and the doors holding them prisoners sprang open and unlocked.
The four barbarians leapt to their feet instantly.
"Let's go!" Bra'co hissed, already outside the cage and arming himself with the fallen soldier's weapons.
Syaoran helped Sakura to her feet.
She was staring at him wide-eyed and he knew she had felt it too. The power.
"Did you kill them?" she asked quietly.
"No," Syaoran said. "I cast the Spell of Sleep."
Shock ran across Sakura's face. "That's… that's impossible! The Spell of Sleep takes time to come into effect… I don't understand-" It had all been so fast. It should have been harder.
"It was the magic," Syaoran said, flexing his hand. Even though Sakura had stopped lending him her power, he could still feel the remnants in his being. "With powerful magic, you can cast almost any spell. The normal rules don't apply anymore."
Syaoran nodded. The rest did not need to be said.
Sakura looked grim as she stepped out the cage and relieved a soldier of his sword. Then she relieved another soldier his sword as well.
"We should split up," Bra'co said, naturally starting to take control of the situation. "We can find Wes'en faster that way."
"No," Sakura said sharply as she sheathed the two swords behind her back. "You and the rest will leave the camp. Now. We'll go after Wes'en."
"He's the grandson of the Chief! I can't leave him here!"
"You will," Syaoran said dangerously, coming to stand beside Sakura. "You've caused enough trouble."
"Trouble?" Bra'co spluttered, offended. "We were only trying to help."
Syaoran had some cutting remark prepared but Sakura beat him to it before he could say a word. Her approach was different than his. She said gently, "Councillor Bra'co, leave Wes'en to us. We have magic, we can get through the camp. It wouldn't do if we got Wes'en and one of Chief Yu'qun's other grandsons got captured, would it?"
Bra'co was alarmed. "No…" he said slowly. It had not occurred to him that way.
"That's why your job is to make sure the other three grandsons get away safely."
"We'll get Wes'en," Sakura said firmly but not unkindly.
Bra'co fidgeted, thinking. "Yes… yes," he muttered half to himself. "You have magic… Alright… alright then!" He looked at the two. "Then I'm entrusting Wes'en's life to you two! Don't you dare leave without him!"
"We won't," Syaoran promised.
Bra'co threw them one last look before he rounded up the other three barbarians and together they disappeared into the coming dawn.
Meijo shook her head. "Do you see now? You'll never win…"
"Th-That's impossible!" Wes'en muttered, his face pale. "How can it be possible?"
"Sasella's magic… it's on a level that we can't understand." Meijo looked away, trying to hold back the furious tears. "I wish you all hadn't come. Now I have no choice… No choice…"
"You always have a choice, Meijo," Wes'en said softly. Meijo turned to stare at him, completely uncomfortable with him using her first name, and the handsome barbarian quickly turned his head, blushing.
"To choose between protecting my family and… and protecting people I can barely call my friends? Big fat choice!"
"But you know you have to do something, don't you…?"
Meijo paced. She felt like tearing out her hair and screaming. But she kept calm and collected. "Being loyal and protecting my family is exactly what I have to do."
She fully expected the barbarian to start spewing out principles about morality but instead he said, "If that's what you choose to do, I think I can understand."
Meijo glanced at him, mildly surprised. "If…" she paused. "If you were in my position, what would you do?"
Wes'en gave that smirk of his and answered, "I would save my family, save my friends, kill Sasella, and marry myself to a sexy handsome barbarian Chief."
To her utter astonishment, Meijo found herself bursting out into genuine laughter. "You're despicable! And completely useless at giving advice!"
Wes'en grinned. "What can I say? I was destined to be a Chief. I don't give advice, I take it from my Councillors."
Meijo shook her head, still smiling.
"Hey…" Wes'en said, turning solemn. "You're okay for an Outsider, you know that?"
Meijo raised an eyebrow. "And you're still my captive."
Meijo was about to say something else when the heavy canvas tent flap was thrown aside.
Morning light streamed through into the tent as a shadow loomed at the entrance way.
Meijo blinked away the sudden brightness and watched with a sinking feeling as General Touya Kinomoto strode into the tent, his large red cloak billowing out from behind him.
The General's presence seemed to take up the entire tent. Under his cold brown eyes, Meijo shivered.
"Captain," Touya said quietly. "Report."
With a sickening feeling, Meijo realized that the red cloak wasn't a red cloak after all. It was a light blue and gold cloak that was stained red with battle blood.
"Uh… I… uh… l-last night…"
Touya waited. There was absolutely nothing in his eyes or expression.
Meijo tried again, trying to stop her racing heart and shut up the nagging voice of conscience. "Last night, I-I caught some people sneaking into the camp," she finally managed to say.
Touya looked past Meijo to her captive. "How many?"
"I-I've…" Meijo hesitated. Was she really going to do this?
"Captain," Touya said. "Where are the rest of the prisoners being held?"
"At the compound," Meijo whispered with a heavy heart. Behind her, she heard Wes'en's sharp intake of breath. Even he knew that this may be the end of him and his cousins.
Touya's eyes moved to the captive and he took a step towards Wes'en. "Who is he?" he asked as he stared down at the barbarian.
"His name is-"
"You can call me Wes'en," the barbarian grinned insolently, doing his best to hide what he was really feeling inside.
But if he had hoped to provoke the General, it did not work. Touya said, "Chief Yu'qun's grandson."
Wes'en was startled but he realized he shouldn't be. Generals of this calibre did not stay alive by not understanding who their allies were and who their enemies were and then everyone in between.
He watched as the General took a second to process this information.
Touya turned and walked back the way he had come from. He stepped out the tent and Meijo followed quickly.
She found the General two paces away from the entrance speaking to one of his soldier, "… send five scouts to Chief Yu'qun's camp. Report everything he does back to me."
The soldier nodded, saluted, and hurried off to carry out the instructions.
Efficiently, the General turned to another of his soldier, "Bring the prisoner," he said. "Question him. After he tells you everything, kill him."
Meijo gasped and hurried after the General who was moving again. "W-Wait! General Touya!"
Touya stopped, turned, and waited for Meijo to speak what she wanted.
Having his eyes stare at her, Meijo felt a sudden loss of words. Behind her, the soldier was pulling Wes'en out of her tent. Wes'en was fighting and cussing and two other soldiers were now rushing to secure the prisoner.
"G-General Touya," Meijo started. "W-Wouldn't the prisoner be of more use to us? H-He is Chief Yu'qun's second favourite."
Touya listened, evaluated, and came to his decision. "The prisoner holds no value for us. Chief Yu'qun has most likely rebelled." The General turned and started to walk away.
"But," Meijo hurried after him. "But what if Chief Yu'qun hasn't? Shouldn't we wait and find out first before doing anything?"
"No. The prisoner will be questioned. Then he will be killed."
"But what if-"
Touya stopped and said, "If Chief Yu'qun has not rebelled then you will deny that his grandson was ever here." He beckoned to another of his soldier. "Prepare the horses and the men. We will march soon."
The soldier saluted and hurried away without question.
"You're going to attack Chief Yu'qun?"
"Captain," Touya said without stopping to look at her. "Is something wrong?"
"You are pale. You are nervous." Without a single emphasis on any of the words or any suspicion in his voice, he still managed to terrify Meijo. "These other prisoners," Touya said without waiting for an explanation. "Who are they?"
"Th-They came with Wes'en… his own soldiers I s-suppose."
"There is more."
It wasn't even a question.
Meijo swallowed and felt close to tears. "It-It is Prince Syaoran Li of Proto… and… and your sister, Sakura Kinomoto."
She waited, desperately hoping to see some sort of flicker, some hesitation in the General's eyes.
There was none.
The General said, "Queen Sasella will award you well. Kill them both now."
Meijo reeled. "W-What?" she whispered. "But won't… won't Queen Sasella want to see them?"
"Y-You didn't even ask her…"
Touya ignored her. He turned to the man behind him who was carrying a wooden box in his arms. It was about twelve inches wide and nine inches deep. "Has the convoy caught up?"
"Yes, General," the man answered. "Just a moment ago."
"Send the box there," Touya said.
The man nodded and hurried away on his small slippered feet.
Meijo looked on curiously. "What…? What was the box?" She already knew but she wanted to hear it from Touya.
Her heart sank. "So it was true. Wako had them?"
Meijo had to now struggle to keep up with the busy General. "H-How was the battle?"
"Quick. Efficient. Chief Wako and his tribe has been effectively annihilated. Two hundred dead Auren soldiers and three hundred horses. Six hundred carts of provisions lost to sabotage by Chief Wako. Another three hundred carts consumed by the marching army."
Meijo blinked as Touya went on to list a bunch of other numbers such as how many swords lost, how many swords recovered through loot, how many spears lost, how many spears recovered from loot and so on.
"Captain," Touya said once he had finished. "You have duties."
It wasn't a request.
"K-Kill t-the prisoners?"
"Are… are you sure we shouldn't ask Queen Sasella first?"
Meijo struggled. She was trying her best to buy some time for Sakura and Syaoran but so far General Touya was not very cooperative. "But… one of them is your sister…"
If the General had been more human, he might have asked "So what?" and if he had been who he really was, he might have exclaimed "I'm going to save them!"
But he was neither of those things. He simply said, "Kill the Prince and his line will end and the war will be won. Then kill his accomplice. Those we choose to betray Queen Sasella must die as well."
"Then…" After all this time she had spent with Touya, she still couldn't believe how cruel and cold he was. Sasella's demens incantation was a fearful thing. "Then won't you see them first?"
"Maybe… maybe they have information…" She was desperate now.
Touya just kept walking, speaking to a soldier here and there, commanding them to carry out various errands that kept the army running smoothly.
"They have no information we need," Touya said. At the same time, he allocated two stable hands to the western stable and two more to the southern one. Then without warning, he turned to another of his soldier at hand said, "Kill all the prisoners at the compound."
The soldier saluted and headed away without question.
"W-Wait!" Meijo said. "But you just… but I thought I was going to-"
And suddenly Meijo felt two soldiers seize her around the arm. General Touya always had a handful of soldiers following him, available to do his bidding at any second. Now there were two who had grabbed her. Meijo considered fighting her way out and then squashed that thought promptly. Maybe she would have managed it, but with Touya standing right there, she didn't even have a chance.
Touya had finally stopped moving around. Now he turned to face her, giving her his undivided attention. With a streak of terror, Meijo realized that the General wanted to kill her. Touya said, "You are compromised." He looked towards his soldier. "Take her to the convoy."
"No! Wait! You've got it wrong-! Wait!"
But Touya had already turned away to take care of other matters. He simply did not care what she had to say for herself.
He was efficient, cold, and a completely good general.
Wes'en felt numb and shocked as he was dragged away from Meijo's tent to another for questioning. He knew then that he would die here.
He hoped that his grandfather would never have to find out how close Wes'en had come to betraying him.
He watched as Meijo followed Touya away, trying her best to do something right. He watched the two disappear around a corner and closed his eyes, defeated.
This was it for him.
His ambitions for becoming a Chief were going to die here with him. He could only apologize to Bra'co and his cousins for bringing them here.
As Wes'en contemplated his own mortality, he couldn't help but think of Meijo. During the one night he had spent as her captive, he had come to know her and in surprise he realized he was insanely attracted to her. He wished she would come back, just one last time, so he could tell her that. And possibly watch annoyance and impatience cross her features.
So it was completely unexpected when Syaoran and Sakura crossed their paths and with lightening speed disarmed the soldiers that were leading Wes'en into an interrogation tent.
Wes'en had never been as glad as he was at that moment to see the Outsiders.
Sakura helped him to his feet as Syaoran dispensed with the last of the soldiers. Sakura pressed a sword into his hands as she undid the rope around his wrists.
"Bra'co? Lu'ten? My cousins?" Wes'en asked, anxious.
"Safe," Sakura answered. "We're here to get you out as well."
"Quickly," Syaoran muttered as he scanned their surroundings for any other approaching soldiers. "This way!"
"Wait!" Wes'en exclaimed, refusing to go. What Meijo had told him in the tent, he had to tell them. "There's something you have to know!"
"And what would that be?" said an amused voice.
The three spun around in shock. They had heard nothing, felt nothing approach.
Yet there she was, standing a few paces away with an amused and smug expression.
"It's been quite a while," Sasella said, her eyes blazing. "I have been looking forward to us meeting again."
Then without warning, she raised her hand and made a small symbol. Syaoran had barely enough time to react, throwing up a shield just in time before the dark purple flames raced across the short distance and burned everything down in its path.
Underneath the small dome of protection, Wes'en, Sakura, and Syaoran were safe as the flames dissipated around them.
All around them the unprotected tents burst into flames and were incinerated. Any poor soldier in them died in an instant.
"Sasella!" Sakura shouted, furious at the mindless destruction and killing.
But Sasella only smiled, her beautiful face lighting up. "So you've gotten better," she murmured, entertained. "But you've always been foolish to stand up against me!"
She threw another spell their way, this time she turned air into fine-tuned sharp knives that whirled, turning a gentle breeze into a tornado of weapons.
The unseen knives slashed and cut at Syaoran's barrier with a ferocity that was incomprehensible. Sakura had to throw up a second layer over Syaoran's to keep them safe. If even one knife managed to get through, it could easily slice them into pieces.
Sasella was not joking, even though her face might seem relaxed. She was intent on killing them. And she was trying.
The ground ripped up in tufts as knives passed and bounced against their shields.
We can't only defend Syaoran thought. He glanced at Sakura beside him and saw she understood the same thing. If they kept defending, sooner or later Sasella would break through.
Syaoran gave Sakura a small nod and effortlessly she took up his barrier while maintaining hers, freeing Syaoran up to cast his spell.
Syaoran didn't waste a single second. He drew the necessary symbol and muttered the words. He pointed at Sasella and with a great flash of light, a bolt of thunder crashed onto earth.
The shockwave knocked Wes'en back but he kept within the bubble of protection, knowing full well what would happen if he even inched a centimetre outside of it.
The momentary blinding light made them blink rapidly, trying to see. Had Syaoran got her? Sasella had been focused on attacking; she had not erected any barriers. Did she do it in time?
As the debris and smoke cleared, they saw the destructive force the thunder had left behind. The ground was scorched, the green grass all but burned away.
"Not even close, Prince!"
Syaoran whirled around. Sasella was now behind them, her eyes glowing with power. She had not a single scratch on her and she laughed. "Is that the best you can do?" She drew two lines and sent her power hurling towards them. "I am only getting started!"
The dual lines of electricity fizzled towards them rapidly and hit the barrier with an enormous explosion. The sound left Sakura's ears ringing but she kept the barrier up, cringing as the barrier took repeated damage.
Sakura's eyes widened as she saw that the barrier had not stopped the spell this time. The electricity had simply crawled across her barrier, sparking here and there, searching for a weakness to break through.
Then she felt it. It was eating at her magic barrier.
The Prince understood. He acted.
With another spell, he managed to gather the electricity and pull it away from the barrier. It bought them a second. But it was all they needed. They dove for the ground and rolled away, breaking through the barrier and putting as much distance between them and the shield as possible.
They couldn't have moved sooner. The electricity untangled itself from Syaoran's spell and flew straight back for the shield, igniting it and bursting, frying anything inside, leaving a perfect circle of black ruin.
"Run!" Sakura shouted at Wes'en. Sasella wanted them, not him. She and Syaoran could barely hold off Sasella without having to worry about the Chief's grandson.
Wes'en didn't need any prompting. He tore away from the two targets, and disappeared.
Sasella did not even give him a second look. The Queen did not bother herself with rats. She had only eyes for these two. She said, "What's the matter?" She took a step towards them. Where Syaoran and Sakura were panting and dirty, Sasella stood tall and energized. "Is this your best!?"
Sasella brought down both of her hands and a terrifying sound split through the air and the ground cracked open. A deep abyss was formed threatening to swallow them both.
Sakura did her best to counter, using all her concentration and magic to keeping both her and Syaoran alive.
Placing his utmost trust in her, Syaoran turned to throw spells at Sasella.
But each thing he threw at her: glowing hot fireballs, pure energy, spells of confusion, and large bolts of thunder, Sasella simply deflected or shielded against each and every one of them easily.
"Is this how you want to defeat me?" she asked again as she easily sent another wave of purple-black fire towards them, sweeping the field clear of life as Sakura barricaded against it. "I laugh at the futility I see in you. You should have taken my offer, Prince Syaoran. Together, we could have made a powerful kingdom."
Syaoran was furious. No matter what he did, Sasella was simply better. "If you think we'll give up…"
"I know you won't," Sasella answered, her eyes intense. "That's why I'm going to kill both of you today." Then she swept the ground again, opening another fissure. "You should have stayed hidden where I couldn't find you!"
It was barely possible to keep up with Sasella. She toyed with them, laughed at them, mocked them, and then threw spell after spell after them without seeming to tire.
Sakura could barely stand by the end of three full minutes of facing blast after blast. Syaoran was doing no better.
It was only a matter of time. Both of them knew it. They were no match against Sasella who had harvested magic from so many victims over the years, drinking and absorbing their magic.
It was only a matter of time…
The two soldiers that had escorted her to the convoy had learned that Queen Sasella was no longer there. According to the soldiers there, she had felt something and had left to "take care of it".
Meijo didn't like the sound of that at all.
The slippered man with the box containing the Orbs was also there, waiting patiently.
As the soldiers discussed amongst themselves what they should do, General Touya appeared.
He strode purposefully to the convoy and was also informed that the Queen was no longer there.
"Where is she?" he asked. Touya had come to inform her that he was ready to march again, this time for Chief Yu'qun's tribe. He was going to completely destroy the camp, just like he had done with Chief Wako's.
Before the soldiers could answer, a guard ran towards them, screaming at the top of his lungs.
"Help! Help!" he shrieked as he tore towards them. He collapsed onto the grass in front of them. "Queen S-Sasella! Over- Over there!"
Touya strode in the direction the guard had pointed out without hesitation. "Bring her," he told his soldiers. "And the Orbs."
Nothing could have prepared Meijo for the extent of destruction she saw.
The ground had been levelled. Deep cracks and fissures ran through the fields like the veins of an ugly beast.
Sasella stood atop a mound of raised earth staring down at Sakura and Syaoran on the other side of the field.
She looked energetic and in control whereas the other two were faring badly. Syaoran's left arm was bleeding, and Sakura had fallen onto her knees.
Meijo felt her heart drop and tears fill her eyes. She was going to watch them die. She had told them!
Wisps of black and grey smoke clogged the air and the wind whistled eerily around them. Meijo had never seen Sasella fight like this. No matter what the cruel Queen liked to say about her enemies, this time she had been surprised at the extent and creativity she had met in both of her foes.
Sasella had never tried quite as hard to extinguish lives as she was having with these two.
Unseeing and uncaring of what was happening or who his Queen was about to kill, General Touya went to Sasella.
Sasella turned slightly when her loyal General approached her. A smirk curved her face as she knew what Sakura must be feeling now.
"Your Majesty," Touya said, dropping to one knee, his head bowed. "I would like to march for Chief Yu'qun's tribe immediately."
Sasella felt almost like laughing out loud. Here she was, killing Touya's sister, and Touya did not even care! "Why?" she asked loftily. "Another traitor?"
"I have cause to believe so." Touya turned and beckoned his soldier to bring Meijo forward. "And this one too."
Sasella's brow knitted into a frown, her good humour leaving her. "Meijo? A traitor?"
"No!" Meijo exclaimed quickly in her defense. "I have never! I would never!"
Sasella regarded the girl with a titled head. She knew Meijo hated her, but she had kept Meijo around because the girl had been useful to her. Was she now no longer useful?
And then Touya said, "And the Orbs, Your Majesty." He beckoned the slippered man to step forward.
Sasella smiled. She opened the box just a tiny crack to peer inside. Two glass balls sat on the cushioned felt of the box. "Dangerous little things," she purred as she felt the magic in the Orbs reaching out and nullifying her own magic. She quickly snapped the lid shut and the Orbs were rendered useless again. She would have to bring these back to Aure with her and prepare to destroy them properly.
Then from the corner of her eye, she saw Sakura move.
Sasella was simply amazed that the girl could still stay conscious after all the magic she had drained in protecting themselves.
She grinned, amused as Sakura charged across the field, heading straight towards her brother. Behind her, Syaoran gave a shout and took up the chase.
"Well, well, well," Sasella mused, shaking her head for the hopeless girl. "How foolish." She considered using Syaoran's lightning spell to strike her down dead where she ran, but changed her mind. It would be so much tastier if… "General Touya. Kill that girl."
Touya did not need to be told twice. He moved. His sword unsheathed.
Sakura saw her brother come towards her, prepared to kill her but she didn't stop running towards him. Behind her, she heard Syaoran shouting but she ignored him.
She barely had enough magic left to spend but she would use every single ounce of strength she had. She would not lose here.
Sakura came to an abrupt halt in the middle of the dead field and watched as Touya approached her. Just a little more and he would be within magical distance.
She took a deep breath and muttered the necessary words.
All the months she had spent practicing.
All the times she had done it.
She drew the symbol of the imprisonment spell.
And like a graceful arc of energy, a bubble formed around Touya, completely encasing him, lifting him off the ground.
There was no surprise in his eyes, just a blunt look. He struggled uselessly in mid-air, trying to free himself and accomplish his objective that his Queen had issued. But try as he might, he could not get free.
Meijo watched the entire scene unfold before her. She watched as Sasella's mouth dropped open in surprise, and realized for the first time that Sasella was neither being benevolent nor truly amused here. Sasella herself was throwing all her most powerful spells at Syaoran and Sakura, struggling to kill them. She was struggling!
But Sasella's capacity of magic was so much larger than either Syaoran or Sakura combined. All she needed to do was wait them out, force them to protect and use spells one after another until they were dry. Then she could easily swoop in and kill them all.
So far, they had managed to dodge and block every spell Sasella sent their way but they wouldn't last much longer.
Meijo watched in astonishment as realization hit her. Sasella was a powerful Queen indeed but only Meijo alone knew how many spells Sasella needed to keep at all times: the offensive and defensive spells, the spell on Touya, and the other… spell.
Meijo watched as Sakura stumbled and the imprisonment bubble surrounding Touya wavered. It flickered again, and then again. Then it completely burst and disappeared, fading away. A cry of dismay and defeat came from the honey-brown haired girl as Touya landed on his feet and faced his completely exhausted sister.
Sakura cried. She had barely held onto the imprisonment bubble for more than a second. She was so tired. So tired. She had expected to do more. She had thought she could do more. But she was at her limits.
Syaoran caught up and stood beside her, shielding her against her emotionless brother. "I'll kill you if you come near her!" he said with a ferocity that made Sasella frown.
But such threats were useless against Touya. The General stepped forward, sword raised. Syaoran made a spell. The deadly lightning.
"No!" Sakura screamed and with the last ounce of her strength, knocked Syaoran sideways just as Touya took a running leap, his sword coming down towards his little sister.
Sakura's shove had dissipated Syaoran's concentration. He watched horrified, stumbling for balance. He would never be able to protect Sakura in time!
Across the other side of the field, Sasella laughed in the irony of it. She had won. She had finally won!
Then in a flurry of silver and grey, a presence moved so fast, placing itself in front of Sakura and blocked Touya's sword with his own.
Meijo felt her mouth fall open. The man with the short grey hair moved with a fearsome speed. He matched Touya's blow for blow, drawing him away from Sakura and Syaoran.
It was the other General. General Yukito.
In the distance on the other side of the field, General Yukito's troops were infiltrating the camp and fighting with the Auren soldiers. They had arrived just in time…
Wes'en ran for his life.
He did not stop or look back.
If his conscience had chided him for his cowardice, he would have spat on it and kept on running.
His life was more valuable than anything in the world. It trumped over conscience, morality, friendship, honour, or all those other annoying values that made humans weak.
But even as these thoughts raced across his mind, he felt his legs slowing down. For the first time since Wes'en's selfish life, he did not want to run.
Finally coming to a complete halt, the barbarian felt strange. What was it that was giving him second thoughts? His gods knew he had no love for the Outsiders. But… Still…
His thoughts drifted to the pink-haired Meijo who had been so tormented with doing the right thing, and had tried so hard to hide it. Wes'en and her couldn't be more different. He loved to take advantage of others, using their talents and gifts to gain power and position. He could see Meijo did not like it all. Her title of captain of the guards and command troubled her immensely.
So then why was Wes'en so damn attracted to her?
He cursed in his tongue fluently, wanting to knock himself out for all the conflicting feelings he was experiencing.
Then giving a particularly loud and foul curse, Wes'en spun and ran back the way he had come from.
Back towards the danger.
Somehow the thought of Meijo looking down at him trumped his fear of death.
When he returned to the battlefield, he was completely shocked at the destruction that had been wrought. Tents on the outlying field were burning while everything else within a large circle was only charred remains. He watched as the one called Queen Sasella directed bout and bout of powerful energy towards Syaoran and Sakura. Some stray rays bounced off the Prince's shields and ended up killing Sasella's own Auren soldiers but the Queen did not seem to care.
The power of magic awed Wes'en but for once that was not the thing that attracted his attention.
It was Meijo standing next to the Queen that called for his attention. Meijo had not spotted him yet but Wes'en could have picked her out anywhere. His heart thumped in his chest and with a resolve he did not think he had, he doubled around, creeping towards Meijo.
No one gave the man a second look. Every attention was focused on the battlefield. As Wes'en reached Meijo's side, an even larger distraction occurred. Somehow, another man with silver hair had joined in, fighting Sasella's General. In the distance, Wes'en could hear other fights going on which could only mean the newcomer had brought reinforcements.
Good, Wes'en thought as he reached out and touched Meijo lightly on the arm.
She jumped at the sudden contact, spinning around to see him.
"Wes'en!" she hissed, her eyes wide. "What are you doing here!?"
Good question, the barbarian thought. What was he doing here?
"I came to say… goodbye…" Wes'en suggested lamely.
He could see from the expression on Meijo's face what she thought about that. The two guards that had flanked her moments ago had both taken steps forward to better watch the amazing fight unfolding. Meijo pushed Wes'en away, becoming increasingly agitated. "Go now, you fool," she said quietly, keeping an eye on her guards.
And Wes'en did something he never thought he would say to an Outsider. "Come with me?" he asked, his eyes solemn. He had wanted to make it sound like a command but what came out sounded like a weak request.
Meijo did a double take, not sure what to make of this. Finally, she decided to scowl. "Go away, Wes'en. I am in danger now!" She gave him another shove. "Queen Sasella may want to kill me!"
But Wes'en would not give up so easily. "All the more reason to come with me!" he insisted.
Frustrated, Meijo wanted to slap some sense into the spoiled son of a great chief. But before she could change his mind, one of the guards noticed Wes'en.
"Hey!" he shouted, reaching for his sword. "Who are you!? Get away from the prisoner!"
The second guard spun around at the shout and they both advanced on Wes'en.
Prisoner? he thought, baffled. He met Meijo's eyes and then he understood. She had tried to do the right thing after all.
"Listen fellows," Wes'en said, backing away. "I'm not the enemy here." He gestured with his chin to Sakura and Syaoran. "Our enemies are over there."
The guards hesitated. It was clear those who were fighting against their Queen were the enemy. But who was this guy? They looked towards Queen Sasella for guidance but their problems were the last of Sasella's. She was preoccupied with the appearance of Yue.
Unlike those who had no magic or did not have it awakened, what they saw was a handsome man with short silver hair. But Sasella saw what General Yukito really was.
One of my Seven, she thought. Yue!
Yue and Touya fought, swords flashing and clashing with a monstrous speed. Yue had no wish to kill Touya or else he would have already used magic.
As Sasella watched raptly, trying to think of a way to capture Yue, Syaoran helped Sakura to her feet. For a moment with Sasella's attention distracted, they were given a few seconds of rest.
"You idiot!" Syaoran whispered, swinging her arm across his neck and wrapping one arm around her waist to hold her up. "What were you thinking!?"
"I-I thought I could…" Sakura murmured weakly, just barely hanging onto consciousness. She had used so much magic, so fast. And it had been no use. She was so tired. So tired that she couldn't even take the effort to cry out her grief.
Then hell resumed.
Sasella turned her attention back on them, a smile tugging at her lips.
She could taste the victory on her lips. Her eyes lit with pleasure and she jumped off the raised mound of dirt she had been standing on. She made her way to them, like a predator getting ready to snack, stopping short of them by a meter.
"My, my, my," Sasella said, fluttering her eyelashes. She could tell that neither Syaoran or Sakura had any magic left at the moment. "I've won."
She was so close that she could hear their ragged breathing and see the detail of the dirt on their face. She threw her head back and laughed. There was nothing they could do! Nothing was sweeter than watching the defeat in the eyes of her enemy. She wanted to savour every single second of this sweet victory, and to make a proper example out of both Syaoran and Sakura so that no one, no one, would ever think about opposing her ever again.
Syaoran let go of Sakura gently and decided to physically charge at Sasella. He still had his sword which he pulled out, barely managing the weight of the sword itself. He gave a clumsy swing which Sasella easily avoided. She couldn't believe that they were still trying!
As if gaining a tiny bit of strength from watching her beloved attempt until the end, Sakura made her own attack. She slipped a dagger out and rushed at Sasella too. The cruel Queen had to erect a barrier to keep the two from landing a cut on her.
Feeling annoyed as they continually struck against her shield, trying desperately to harm her, Sasella held out her hands, and drew the symbol of death, bringing to mind the most painful and torturous way to die. They deserved nothing more.
The spell took longer than the rest of her other ones but it was worth it. Plus, her enemies were defeated, no longer posing any threat. She would enjoy it.
The magic built up in her, on the brink of release.
And just as she was about to direct it towards Syaoran and Sakura, something happened.
She felt the magic she had built up seep out of her being. She gave a terrified cry as her magic nullified into nothingness. Her fingers were splayed as she froze in complete shock as every ounce of magic disappeared from her being.
Not knowing what was going on, Sakura gave a rough lunge and to her utter surprise, instead of hitting uselessly against Sasella's barrier, her blade connected with Sasella's cheek, biting into her flesh.
Sasella shrieked in pain. She took a step back, equally shocked as Sakura was. Syaoran wasted no time in figuring out what had happened. He stepped forward and sank his sword skilfully into Sasella. The Queen sidestepped only in time to avoid a mortal wound, the Prince's sword struck her shoulder, crunching into bone.
Sasella screamed again, and tried to avoid the sharp blades. But having drawn blood, Syaoran and Sakura were unstoppable, coming after Sasella no matter how exhausted they were.
Queen Sasella had no weapon of her own to defend herself with. She had relied on magic her entire life. It had never failed her so she had seen no cause to carry sharp objects around.
She dodged and tried to run, but Sakura came after her like a fiend. Syaoran blocked her escape. It was two against one, and Sasella had the disadvantage.
She screamed for Touya, and her General tried to immediately come to her aid. But Yukito held him, refusing to let Touya escape his blade. Unable to come to his Queen, Sasella was left to fend for herself.
She gave an ear-piercing howl as another of Syaoran's cut landed on her smooth skin, drawing red blood.
She stumbled, crawled, and tried to get away. Tears stung her eyes. How had a sure victory turned into such a disaster in the blink of an eye? Had she been too confident? Why had her magic failed her, she the most powerful sorceress the world had ever seen?
Then she saw it.
A shaft of dawn morning light hit the glass orb on the grass, sending sparkles of rainbow colours swirling.
She scrambled, clawed, trying to get back on her feet. Her beautiful hair was muddy and her clothing was tattered and stained with her own blood. Even as Sakura's sword sank into her thigh, pinning her to the ground, Sasella could not believe it.
Her eyes sought out the slippered man who had been holding her Orbs.
The wooden case that had shielded the Orbs was lying on the grass, completely wide open.
Then she saw the slippered man. A dagger was in his gut and a barbarian was standing over him, looking pleased and satisfied.
Sasella howled, reaching out a clawed hand, wishing to crush his throat, summoning all the will and power she wanted. But nothing came, she could only gurgle and scream helplessly as both Syaoran and Sakura slashed away at her body, taking on the vengeance and hatred of all the people she had so heartlessly killed.
Then Sasella's eyes met Meijo's.
But Meijo stood there, horrified and disbelief in her eyes. The great Queen had fallen.
And all because a barbarian man had punched and then stabbed a slippered man.
Meijo took a step forward to the fallen and near death Queen. She bent down and picked up one of the Orbs that had fallen out of the box when the slippered man had fallen.
Sasella watched Meijo approach, a trickle of hot blood leaking into her eye. Finally she noticed that no one was hacking at her anymore. But it was too late. She was so injured. So hurt… Only if her magic would come back. Only if… She could heal herself with magic…
If Meijo could put the Orbs back into the box… There was still time… Still time…
But Meijo did not seem to understand. She was in a daze. She knelt on the blood soaked grass in front of Sasella and placed the pretty Orb in front of her face.
"Queen Sasella," Meijo murmured in a frightened whimper. "P-Please, Y-Your Grace. P-P-P-Please, Sasella." Meijo broke down crying. "I… I didn't want any of this. Please… Please don't hurt them! Please don't hurt my family!"
"She can't your family anymore," Sakura said softly, placing a gentle hand on Meijo's shoulder. "It's all going to be… alright. This is the end."
Teardrops rolled down Meijo's face as she ignored Sakura's words. "M-My Queen, please. I beg you-"
"No one will ever need to beg Sasella again." Then Prince Syaoran sank his fingers into Sasella's hair, yanking it back mercilessly, exposing her throat. He brought up his sword and exclaimed, for all to hear, "Sasella will never hurt anyone again!"
And then he cut off her head, once and for all.
Somewhere in the unknown kingdom of the West, in a small and dark isolated cave, a girl with pale and sickly skin gasped in a painful breath.
Her eyes flew open and she sat up.
Author's Note: Gosh, I cannot express how sorry I am for the extremely slow update. I just recently got a new job so I have been so swamped with work and learning the ropes. Thank you everyone for your encouraging reviews and patience. Also, thank you for the reminders to update. Really kept me up trying to chomp out this chapter.
I hope you enjoy it as this story is quickly coming to an end. Endings are so difficult to write so I hope everyone will be satisfied with the ending to come.
If you enjoy my work, please consider leaving a review.
Additionally, with this story coming to a finality, I've started on another. It's only in the early stages and I have only written two chapters to date, but the first one has been uploaded. If you're interested, please take a look and let me know what you think. The story is very different from this one but I hope you will enjoy it equally as much.