07: Night Activities

There were several flaws she noticed after listening to Connor: if the people of the Kingdom of Corun had been, for the better part, killed or displaced, then who were the people currently inhabiting the Black Valley? Who were the people Rena grew up with? Were they even living in the Black Valley? Judging from Connor's description, the thirteenth kingdom was situated in a beautiful place, but certainly not the Black Valley she grew up in. If there had been a kingdom then where were the ruins? Even if the war had happened centuries ago there would still have to be some structures left over. She had been to the mountainous north several times in her life, but even then no ruins had been found. Wherever the Kingdom of Corun had lay, Rena knew it would be unlikely that it would ever be found. Still, the lost kingdom was definitely an interesting subject worth looking into. I'm going to have to check around on that, she noted mentally.

The young Otome quickly tidied her room and made sure everything was neatly put away. She examined the room one last time and said aloud, 'Looks good enough.' Rena left her room, locking it behind her, and made her way to leave the residence. Connor had told – no, he had ordered her – to leave the base for the weekend, and threatened her with a laborious task should she fail to comply. Rena had no intention to disobey her team leader; she promptly cleaned up her room the morning after and made to leave for the Waltemeyers. She had last spoken to them on the day of her graduation and was eager on giving them a surprise visit. Emmett, Rena learned, was quite accommodating. In fact he seemed quite laid back. Whether that was a good or bad thing, Rena did not know. However, she knew he genuinely cared for her as an Otome and as a person. 'Whether Nate told me or not, I would have told you to take a break. Tell your family I say "hi", 'will you?' said Emmett the night before. Upon reaching the main floor, Rena was surprised to see her Master standing idly by, likely waiting for her.

'Emmett?' asked Rena in surprise.

He smiled. 'Well I figured I'd give you a ride to your parents,' he said. 'I'd actually like to meet them, to get to know them, but I'll leave this day for you and your family.' Emmett shrugged and said, 'So… need a lift?'

'Sure, why not?' replied Rena, smiling.

A brown military truck was stationed outside of the main doors of the residence. Rena was always uncomfortable getting into the trucks as many of them, such as Emmett's truck, had no doors and no roof. It was for the main part a dune buggy for the roads. Still, the Meister knew she wouldn't have to fight from the vehicle, and that it was simply used to travel around the city and patrol the desert terrain outside of Windbloom. She took her seat in the front passenger seat; Emmett got behind the wheel and started up the engine. The diesel engine rumbled to life; Emmett turned to Rena and said, 'I don't know how to get to your house so you're going to have to give me directions.' Rena nodded and the truck began to move. Driving towards the main gates of Fort Santa Ana, Emmett asked the Otome over the noise of the engine, 'So I've been meaning to ask you: what made you become an Otome?'

'What?' Rena was taken slightly aback.

'My dad always planned for me to go to the Military Academy,' began Emmett. 'It's all in the family, but you already know that. Regardless, I still would have gone if I had the choice. My mom wasn't up to it, of course. She wanted to wait until I was of proper age before I left, but my dad had other ideas. In the end I guess it all worked out, right? I mean I think I'm doing pretty well. I love the job and I love the people I work with.' Rena had been watching him as he spoke; she could have sworn he had given her a quick glance with his last statement. 'It's fun to travel and stuff, and you know what? I don't mean to brag or anything, but I think I'm good at what I do.' He turned slightly to Rena and gave her wink. Emmett slowed the truck down as it approached the main gates; the guard gave the warrant officer a nod and lifted the gate. 'So what made you want to become an Otome?' asked Emmett as they left the military base.

Rena casually looked about, taking in the passing forest scenery that surrounded the base. 'Oh you know,' she said, 'just a small girl's dream.'

'It's a pretty big dream, but I guess if you put your heart into it then nothing's out of reach, right?'

The Meister quickly turned to her Master, looking at him with surprise. He simply smiled at her, that same warm smile. Where do you come up with these – these – Rena looked for the word that would fit but found none. Emmett was an enigma and she didn't know whether that was a good thing or not. Though he was her Master and she was his Otome, their relationship was very much a mystery. They hardly knew anything about each other. Which is probably why he offered to give me a ride, she thought. What better way to know another person than to talk to them while driving? Well, maybe something over lunch or…

'I guess it's always something I've wanted for myself,' replied Rena after a thought. 'Have I ever told you about that time my parents took me to Windbloom Castle?'

'I don't recall,' said Emmett.

'Well it was only two years ago,' began Rena, 'just before I entered Garderobe. I've never gone on a tour of Windbloom Castle before so it was really exciting to me. It was there when I saw an Otome. I mean, I've seen them before, but this was the first time I saw one in person.' Rena smiled in spite of herself, remembering her first full day at Windbloom. 'I had already applied to Garderobe before I saw the Otome, but it was then and there did I realise I had to become an Otome. I wanted to be like her.'

'Well allow me to be the one to congratulate you on fulfilling your dream. This is slightly redundant for me to say, but you are now an Otome,' said Emmett.

Rena grinned lopsidedly, replying, 'Why thank you.' Silence fell between them momentarily. 'Has Connor told you that we've been picked to go to Artai with the delegation?' she then said, changing topics.

Emmett nodded. 'Yeah, he told me last night. Excited?'

'Just a bit,' answered Rena. In truth she was more than "just a bit" excited. Rena found it hard to concentrate on any task at hand as Artai was always at the forefront of her thoughts. 'But this shouldn't be anything new to you, right?'

'Well not exactly,' said Emmett slowly. 'This will be our first time out together, as Master and Otome.'

'Just try not to let me down, okay Emmett?' joked Rena.

Emmett laughed aloud. 'Me? Me trying to not let you down? Don't get all cocky there, Miss Otome. I'm looking to see if you can actually start running when we touch the ground,' said the warrant officer. 'I hope I don't have to be your knight in shining armour and rescue you from danger.'

'That'll be the day,' Rena said haughtily. 'Oh, it's a right turn at the next light. I live in that new residential area.'

'Gotcha,' acknowledged the driver. He made the right turn as directed and the truck proceeded to drive down a relatively busy road; small to medium-sized shops were set up on both sides of the road, their parking lots filled. 'So Nate told me something interesting last night – I mean, aside from the info about our mission to Artai.' He cast Rena a curious glance. 'He said you wanted to know a bit about the Black Valley and the Aswalds. I don't mean to pry, but why?'

Rena shrugged. 'Curiosity, a need to know more – I don't know, I just felt like looking into them,' replied Rena casually.

'Have you heard of the story about First Platoon in Baker Company?' asked Emmett suddenly. Rena shook her head. 'It's an interesting story, really. Like us, First Platoon was travelling with a delegation, except it was to Romulus and not Artai. Anyway, this only happened last year so it's pretty recent. It didn't make the papers, or at least not on the front page, since no one got hurt, but still… Well, how did it begin again?' Emmett frowned, trying to recall the events of that day. 'Oh yeah, it happened on the return trip. Well the delegation was coming back from Romulus after a week of talking things over about trade and whatnot. The ship that the suits and the soldiers were on was only ten kilometres out from the main walls when they were attacked. It was at night and since we didn't have any night-vision capabilities, well, let's just say we were at a disadvantage.

'The ambush lasted for half an hour. Reports say they were hit with some rockets, disabling their ship so that they couldn't move. Reinforcements were called in but by the time they came the battle was over. The two platoons immediately formed a perimeter and started shooting back; flares were fired into the sky for illumination. This proved helpful and was ultimately the reason why the attackers were pushed back. In the end no one got killed. None of our guys and none of theirs. We still don't know what their objective was but it was likely to be a one time thing. Since then not a single delegation has been attacked, but that hasn't stopped us from beefing our security forces. Unfortunately on that ship there wasn't a Detachment unit, but I think our soldiers did a fine job on their own.'

Rena listened and she nodded, but with the story's end she did not know how it applied to her. 'So what does that mean to me?' she asked rather bluntly.

Emmett slowed the truck down to a halt as they came to a red light. He turned to the Otome and replied, 'The attackers were from the Black Valley. Now we don't think it was the Aswalds, but they were definitely from the Black Valley.'

Rena wanted to believe that he was joking, but deep down she knew her people provided services that were sometimes questionable. It would not surprise her if the Black Valley was behind the attack. She pursed her lips. Damn it, this is only happening because the world doesn't care about us. She knew that the manner her people was trying to grab attention was rather childish, but when all other methods had failed then what other option was left? 'Well through my research and what I've learned, maybe it's because no one is helping them?' suggested Rena.

'What do you mean?' asked Emmett.

'Think about it for a second; what would you do if the world didn't help you? If your people were living in horrible conditions and the world did nothing to help, what would you do?' she asked Emmett, her eyes boring into his.

Frowning, Emmett replied, 'I don't know… I guess I'd be angry, as though I was forgotten.'

'So if you were forgotten then what would you have to do to be remembered? What would you do to make your situation better?' pushed Rena. Emmett simply shook his head in hopelessness. 'I don't agree with how the Black Valley is approaching the matter, but they can't be blamed for everything.'

'So I suppose we're supposed to help them out?'

'If that's what we have to do, then yes,' answered Rena.

Emmett nodded but was clearly not in agreement. 'Alright, but what should we do? Should we forget everything they've done to us in the past? Everything we've done to them? I mean I agree – we should help – but it's going to be hard to put our differences aside. Frankly I don't see anything happening to make the situation better in the near future.'

'Well we should try,' said Rena sullenly.

The Master glanced at her briefly. 'If there comes the day when you can make a difference then I'll support you all the way, but right now we're just pawns in the grand scheme of things.' Emmett turned to look at her, smiling in a hopeless manner.

The remainder of the journey was in silence. Rena was frustrated for a variety of reasons and did her best to cope with the problem. Rena knew the source of her frustration stemmed from the mission that had been given to her. She knew it was not Emmett's fault that they couldn't help the Black Valley. She knew it wasn't his fault that he couldn't understand her position, or her true feelings. After all she could never reveal to him her true self; he would never really know her. And that there lies the problem, Rena thought. The truck came to a halt in front of the Waltemeyers' house several minutes later. The street was empty and peacefully quiet. Rena did not leave the truck just yet. She remained quietly seated, staring absentmindedly down at her feet.

'So you want me to pick you up when you're done?' asked Emmett.

'What? Oh – no, you don't have to,' replied Rena. 'I can get back on my own.'

'You sure? It won't trouble me at all, you know. You are my Otome and I am supposed to look out for you,' he said. 'Listen, I'm not doing anything the whole day except for finishing a few reports back at the base. I'll be at the Fort for the whole day so if you need me to come pick you up or anything, just give me a call, okay? You have my number, right?' Rena nodded, knowing there was no way she could get him to forget about her. 'Good, well if you need me, call, okay?'

'Sure thing,' said Rena, stepping out from the side of the truck.

Emmett waved goodbye to Rena and drove off down the road. The Otome watched as the truck disappeared around the corner and walked up to the stucco-walled house. Rena stood in front of the door, wanting to ring the bell but was instead immobilised on the spot. She had yet to pay the Waltemeyers a visit since graduating from Garderobe. Coming to see them after such a long time was intimidating beyond reason. How would they react when they see her standing at their doorstep? Would they be angry for not paying them a visit earlier? Happy that she came back? Rena flattened the creases of her uniform and rung the doorbell. She could hear movement on the other side; a rumble of footsteps approached the door. The lock clicked and the door was opened by James Waltemeyer. His thin face broadened to a smile. 'Rena! We were wondering when we were going to see you,' he exclaimed happily.

'Well I figured I should drop in and see how you were doing,' said Rena, relieved that he was not chasing her off the property. 'I've been meaning to stop by but I've been held up.'

'No worries,' said James, waving the matter aside. 'Please, come in.' He stepped to the side, allowing Rena to enter the house. James Waltemeyer was beaming at her. 'Cara and I are so proud of you, you know that? Just seeing you wearing that uniform – we're really happy for you.'

'Please, if it weren't for you two then I wouldn't be here. If it weren't for you then I'd likely be back in the Black Valley,' said Rena modestly. She looked around, taking in the sight of the foyer and remembering the first time she stepped foot into this house. 'It's been two years…' Rena looked around the house, a sense of nostalgia overcoming her.

'Only two years but a lot has happened since,' said James.

Rena turned to her adopted father and asked, 'Where's Cara?' James gestured towards the kitchen behind him. His face was straight but she could tell that he was hiding something, that his face was refraining from showing some sort of excitement. Rena walked down the hall and found her adopted mother by the counter putting clean, empty glasses away in their respective shelves. Cara Waltemeyer looked very much the same when they had last met, but she was also very different. She was rounder and slightly bigger, her body containing the life a new child. Rena goggled at her in amazement. 'C-Cara! You're pregnant?'

She smiled warmly at the young Meister but said nothing yet. James placed a hand on her shoulder and said, 'We were waiting to surprise you, Rena.'

'Taking care of you made us realise that we wanted a child,' informed Cara Waltemeyer. 'We weren't sure if wanted a child then, but after taking you in we knew what we wanted. You helped us find out what we wanted for ourselves.'

'Oh – well, no problem, I guess,' said Rena, unsure of herself. 'How long –?'

'It's been about three months,' said Cara. 'Boy or girl, we're happy to have a child.' She smiled and added, 'Of course, I would rather prefer to have a girl.'

'What? I thought we agreed that it'd be better if we had a boy?' asked James taken aback.

Cara scoffed. 'Boys are dirty. Don't you agree, Rena?' the soon-to-be mother asked, turning to the Otome.

Rena laughed. 'Well I don't know if I want to comment since my Master is a male,' replied Rena.

Cara materialised a sandwich in front of the Otome, to which Rena gladly accepted. The family talked for countless hours. Rena did not know whether they had anything planned, or whether she had anything planned, but time certainly ran out. Emmett had dropped her off in front of the Waltemeyers' house early in the afternoon, but when the girl looked up to check the time, she was surprised to note that it was nearly six in the afternoon. The Waltemeyers did not ask for specifics, but they were quite interested on hearing how her life as an Otome was proceeding, and how Garderobe had been. 'Oh it's been great,' said Rena, replying to Cara's inquiry in regards to her job. 'It was a bit boring at first, but now things have been pretty exciting.'

Rena then learned that the Black Valley continued to maintain contact with the Waltemeyers. 'The messenger comes around once in a while – the last time was a month ago – but all he asks is if we've heard from you,' explained James. 'Of course we tell him the truth – it's not often that we contact you or vice versa. Everyone back home seems to want to know what you do at all times,' said James. 'You're quite the celebrity back home, aren't you?' Rena shrugged her shoulders. I guess so, if that means the Aswalds are trying to get me to work faster, she thought, remembering the letter directed at her. The Waltemeyers did not know about the letter and she had no intentions on telling them about it. Rena continued to smile and moved the subject away from her friends from the Black Valley.

The Waltemeyers invited Rena to stay for dinner and she quickly took up the offer. 'We'll be cooking up something out back – a bit of barbecuing – so if you want to stay then it'd be great,' said James. It wasn't as though she planned on leaving them any time soon. Rena wanted to spend as much time as possible with her adopted parents before going back to the base. Cara told Rena that she should change out of her uniform and into more casual clothes. Her bedroom, she saw, did not change the slightest during her two-plus years of absence. The bed was as she had remembered it when she left, and the layout inside the closet was the same. Rena changed out of her Meister's uniform and into a red blouse and navy blue skirt the Waltemeyers had bought her when she first arrived; the Blue Sky Sapphire, though, remained around her neck. She tucked it under her blouse and buttoned up the shirt. The window in her room was left open; already she could smell the grilled burgers wafting into her room. She poked her head out of the window and looked down – James and Cara were standing by the grill, talking amiably as the burgers cooked. Well I can trust James not to poison me with his food, Rena thought, grinning. She wondered why several tables had been set up in the backyard but was sure she would find out soon.

Rena joined the two outside in their backyard, stepping out onto the clean-cut grass. The sizzling barbecue, the irresistible smell of juicy burgers begging to be consumed, all made the girl hungry. It was as she stepped outside did the Waltemeyers tell her the reason for the barbecue and the tables. 'We have guests coming over,' explained James. 'Some friends of mine from work are coming over. Cara and I didn't know whether to bother you about this, but I guess since you showed up then why not? Don't worry, you don't have to talk to anyone if you don't want to.'

'No, that's quite okay,' said Rena, laughing. 'I'll manage.'

'Are you sure?' asked Cara, eyeing the Otome nervously. 'James' friends are a weird bunch.'

'I'll be fine,' Rena assured her, grinning.

The sky began to darken when the first guest appeared at the Waltemeyers' house. He was a man similar in age to James Waltemeyer, though bigger. It would be something like a barbecue between families, Rena began to notice. Coworkers of James brought their wife or husband, along with their children if they had any. All of them appeared to be the same age as James, but some were older. They all shook hands or embraced one another like brothers and sisters. There was laughter and joy – Rena, standing to the side, watching these exchanges, couldn't help but feel happy. Had Rena not known the occupation of her adopted father, she would have found the scenario before her confusing. However, knowing full well what his job entailed, she saw nothing wrong with the handshakes and embrace.

James Waltemeyer worked for a private contracting company that often employed its services to the most dangerous parts of the world. Though some of the people at the barbecue worked desk jobs, many like James were advisers that travelled abroad for weeks or months at a time. Although the pay was exceptional, the danger was never forgotten. The colleagues of James standing before her were all friends and it was likely that they had not seen one another for a long time – she soon learned that one of them had been away from his family for nearly a year. The young children from some of these families did not understand what the occasion was about, but for those who were old enough to realise the fact, they merely stood aside and let their parents enjoy their time.

'I guess you got pulled into this like me, eh?' asked a voice behind her.

Rena turned to face a boy with sandy brown hair and thin-framed glasses over his electric blue eyes. He was wearing a black windbreaker over a shirt, and khaki pants. The boy grinned wryly and continued, 'My dad got back four weeks ago, but some of these guys just stepped out from the port last night.' He nodded to a man standing by with his wife, chatting to another friend. 'That guy there just came back from the northern mountains of Artai last night.'

Rena whistled. 'It must be heavy work,' she noted.

'Must be,' said the boy. 'I don't ask my dad for details, but I've talked to some of his friends. Some say it's boring work while others like it. How does your mom or dad like the job?'

She had never asked James whether he enjoyed his line of work. Actually, she never bothered the man once about his job. Rena never gave a moment's notice to whether James liked what he was doing, and whether Cara was fine with having her husband gone for lengthy periods of time. Rena simply assumed that since the married couple seemed happy at all times, maybe they were fine with it all. Just as well, it didn't seem as though she had a right to ask such a thing. 'My dad seems okay with it,' replied Rena, 'but I don't ask him about it to tell you the truth.'

The boy nodded. He suddenly tapped the side of his head with his hand, remembering something he had forgotten. 'I'm sorry, I haven't even asked you for your name yet,' exclaimed the boy. 'The name is En Kaplan,' introduced the boy, extending a hand.

'Rena Sayers,' said the Meister, taking the hand. 'En Kaplan?'

'What a name, eh? Don't worry, I won't be surprised if you ask for it again,' said En, laughing.

'No, that's quite okay, I got it,' Rena said, grinning.

The boy named En Kaplan looked at Rena for a moment. He seemed to be searching for something, racking his brain for whatever he needed. Suddenly his face lit up as the answer came to him. 'Hey wait a minute; I think I know who you are. You said your name was Rena Sayers, right?' he asked. Rena nodded, looking at him quizzically. 'Yeah, I heard about you. You're quite the well-known figure.'

'I am?' she asked, looking dumbfounded.

En nodded. 'Yeah, you are. You're an Otome, right? You were that recent Meister that graduated from Garderobe with exceptional grades, breaking a few records and setting some new ones in the process. Yeah, you made quite a name for yourself in Garderobe. Graduated at the top of your class – not to mention you graduated with honours – and received the Blue Sky Sapphire. You got the perfect Cinderella story, Rena. A girl growing up in a normal household – no rich uncles, no money locked up away for you at the bank – you worked hard for yourself and you were rewarded for your efforts. Definitely a role model to all, you know that?' I did? Rena thought with amazement, though her face remained impassive, simply showing a state of confusion. 'I guess you didn't know about that, huh?'

Rena shook her head. 'Well I know I did some stuff, but nothing amazing,' she said slowly.

'You really came out of nowhere, you know? I mean a lot of the students that try and become an Otome are from rich or noble families, but you're not. A lot of my friends were glad to see someone who wasn't living in the upper bracket to graduate the way you did. You really showed them up,' said En proudly. He hesitated and added, 'We're not stalking you or anything. Just consider us your supporters.'

'I didn't know I had supporters,' she said, laughing lightly.

'Oh you'd be surprise. Don't get me wrong, though,' he said suddenly, raising his hands. 'We're not stalkers or anything; we're just some fans of yours.'

'And that should make me think otherwise?' Rena asked, looking at the boy suspiciously. She grinned and said, 'To tell you the truth, it's kind of weird to think that I have a fanbase.'

En shrugged his shoulders. 'You might not be a movie star, or a princess, but why does it matter? You're more than that.'

Rena was not sure how to respond to that. She looked at him momentarily and finally said, 'Thanks.' The boy shrugged his shoulders with indifference once again. 'You want to get something to eat?' she asked, wanting to fill the void between them. 'Food smells great and I'm starving.'

Night had already settled across the sky when she finished James' delicious hamburgers and Mr Jones' hotdogs; lamps and light from the house illuminated the backyard. The barbecue had been a success; the friends were reunited and chatted amiably, talking about old times and the future to come. Rena had been sitting next to En for the majority of the night. The two had moved to their own table, away from the adults and the smaller children, nearer to the back of the yard where they could be alone for the moment. Emmett had shown himself to be something of an enigma – she couldn't read him as he was too unpredictable. En, on the other hand, was not such a mystery. Rena learned that he was only older than she by three weeks, and that he had moved to Windbloom with his family nearly four years ago. She easily accepted his personality and was glad to have some company for the occasion.

'So what are you studying at Windbloom University?' asked Rena, pushing her plate away.

En emptied his glass of water before replying, 'Criminology.'

'That sounds pretty neat,' said Rena.

'It's always been something I was interested in,' explained the boy. 'Well I guess I wanted to go through with it.'

'Nothing's out of reach,' said Rena absentmindedly. She was unsure as to why she said that. Whether it was meant for her or for En, she did not know. Since becoming an Otome she had felt as though her dreams had come true. The dreams had come true for the most part, but after several days she realised something else was missing. There was another want but she did not know what. Rena placed such matters aside and focused on her work and the work she had to accomplish for the Black Valley.

En nodded and replied, 'I guess you'd be the living proof of that, huh?'

It was Rena's turn to shrug her shoulders. 'I just wanted to become an Otome,' said Rena simply.

'Consider it a mission accomplished,' said En, raising his empty glass.

Rena took the glass from the boy's hand and refilled it with water from the jug nearby. She returned the glass to the boy and raised her own. 'Here's to me being an Otome and to you and your future,' exclaimed Rena. En grinned, nodding, and the two tapped glasses.

The guests began to leave some hours later. Rena checked her watch, swearing under her breath, knowing that she was supposed to return back to the base. She went to call Emmett but was surprised to find that he was not at his desk. Maybe he's coming here for me, she thought hopefully. Still, she had such an enjoyable time that she forgot she had a job to do. Even though Rena and En had been discussing about their lives and what they wanted to do (or in Rena's case, what she was currently doing), Rena managed to forget that she had a Master. The Meister knew Emmett and Connor would be happy knowing that she was out having fun and not being stressed by work, but Rena still felt bad about it.

Yet it was easily the best time of her life – she had last experienced such a feeling at her graduation ceremony. En was standing with his parents by their car. He walked up to Rena before leaving with his family, saying, 'I suppose I'll see you again?'

'If we have another one of these barbecues again then definitely,' said Rena with confidence.

They stood under the light by the lamp of the house, looking at one another awkwardly. What was she supposed to do now? Give him her number? No, she didn't have a number unless En was willing to talk to Emmett. Hug him? Shake his hands? Say something funny? The two looked at each other, both lost at what to do. They would soon part ways but none knew how to do it properly. There was an uneasy silence as the two grinned at each other nervously. Who knew such a simple task as saying "Goodbye" could be so difficult?

Through the silence of the night was the distinct sound of a speeding vehicle, its tires screeching as it turned a corner. The vehicle turned sharply around the corner at high speeds, barrelling down the quiet street. Rena rolled her eyes at the immature driver. Kids these days, she thought in annoyance. Just because it was late at night didn't mean the teens or young adults with free time could speed wherever they want. It was not until the vehicle neared did Rena realise that the driver was not a teen or young adult with free time; the driver was clearly dressed in military fatigues. Emmett, in the military truck, came to a halt in front of the Waltemeyers' house. He did not bother to turn off the engine or step out from the truck. He leaned across and shouted unceremoniously to Rena, 'Get in!' He was not yelling at her in anger, but rather out of urgency. He looked winded though she was sure he did no strenuous physical exercise.

'What's going on?' asked Rena.

Her answer came in the thunder of explosions far off in the distance by the kingdom walls; the night sky was suddenly lit as illuminations were sent flying into the air. The familiar sound of rifle chatter echoed across the broken silence, mixing in with artillery pieces landing on or near their targets. The kingdom walls were alive with activity as the sentries were in the process of repulsing a foreign force. Someone was attacking Windbloom. An unwise decision if she ever knew one. Rena, without thinking, quickly gave En a hug and joined Emmett in the military truck. She did not stop to look back and see the expression on the boy she had come to know several hours ago. Rena turned to her Master, seeing the grim expression on his face. Emmett had his game face on and she was set to have hers. She looked off into the distance, seeing the artillery pieces light up the horizon momentarily. Rena quickly thought of the Waltemeyers, knowing that they would worry for her. It's showtime now, she thought, gearing herself mentally for the battle ahead.