DA: I'm backkkkkk! Not quite so long this time too. I'm getting better. Thanks so much to Bubblekins1010 for bugging me about this fic so I could keep a schedule. Sort of. I thought this chapter was going to be shorter than the previous one, and it is, but only by a little bit. So prepare for the long haul. Also, Happy Valentine's Day!

Disclaimer: Don't own. Not a bit. Still a good thing.

**NOTE: I definitely earned the T rating for this chapter. If you're squeamish then read with caution. And of course, swearing as usual.**

Well, here comes the first part of this battle, which I have dubbed the Battle for Light. (Cheesssyyyy. Haha) I hope you enjoy!

Chapter 23

The world was ablaze with ash and fire, smoke billowing up to obscure the bright light emitted by the Oracle's Sun. The ground smoldered, crackling tinder drifting through the wind. Blaze gasped for air, on all fours on the scorched earth. Blood soaked through her armor, crimson streaking down her pale face. Crystal lay crumpled behind her, the multicolored creature scuffed and scratched. Tears welled in the fallen rider's green eyes, her jaw clenched. Shattered pieces of her sword were scattered in the dirt in front of her shaking hands, gleaming in the scarlet glow.

Her head jerked up, tears spilling down grimy, bloodstained cheeks. Fingers digging through the ground, her hands curled into fists. A shadowed figure approached her vulnerable form, its identity hidden by the copious amount of dust and smoke swirling in the air. Breathing was becoming increasingly difficult, Blaze's ash stained lips parted as she sucked in air through grinding teeth. Fear and concern shone in her gaze, her expression tight.

"Please, don't," she whispered, breathless words colored with desperation. The silhouette paused, shifting the weapon at its side. "This isn't you! Please, don't do this!" If it were possible, the area darkened further, the warrior lifting his weapon. Blaze stiffened, the worry and fear on her features melting into hopelessness. Releasing a breath, she let her head fall, her eyes drifting shut. As the figure thrust forward, the clouds shifted, a flash of scarlet shining through the darkness.

Corona shot upright, pressing a hand to her heaving chest. Her heart pounded beneath her fingers, blood rushing loudly in her ears. Blaze popped her head in, the door cracked open enough to allow her presence. Ever since the plan had been solidified, she'd been on better terms with the riders, but they were still far from receiving her forgiveness. "Corona, it's time for our shift on the wall," she reminded, her sharp gaze running over Corona's startled appearance. (1) The small grin fell from her lips, a tight, worried frown replacing it. "Hey, are you ok?"

Corona blinked at the redhead, still working on controlling both her heart and her lungs. Swallowing she nodded slowly, lowering her shaking hand. Blaze didn't look convinced, her lips still tight. "Yea," Corona breathed, still a little winded. "Yea, I'm fine. I'll be out in a few minutes." Searching the Handmaiden one more time, she nodded skeptically, but ducked out of the room. Alone once again, Corona collapsed back against her pillow, resting the back of her hand on her forehead. She glanced, her eyes shielded, towards the open window, sunlight streaking into the room.

Had that…been a dream?

Shuddering slightly, she slid out from beneath her sheets, the morning air biting at her bared skin. She moved towards the window, blue gaze scanning the courtyard below. In her mind, the world was dark and burning, a huge contrast to the scene before her. Something was very wrong. Feeling nauseous, she exhaled slowly, turning away from the peaceful view. The blond, however, couldn't stop focusing on the identity of the shrouded figure, revealed mere seconds before Corona's waking.



An alarm clanged loudly through the twisting corridors of Arachna Castle, rousing those resting riders rather forcefully from their sleep. Igneous, his mind waking before his body, scrambled out of bed, his long limbs tangling impressively in an attempt to force him to the floor. Blearily, he slipped into clothing he had laid out before getting into bed, fingers fumbling on clasps and ties. By the time he'd managed to make himself appear presentable, and that included fixing the mess he called his hair, the remainder of their force had already arrived at the wall near the city gates, the chosen rendezvous point. As he stumbled in, he noted with a mild hint of glee that Prince Lumen was still rubbing sleep from his eyes. Blaze glared at him, green eyes dark with anger. Yep, she was still annoyed with him. Strangely though, she chewed at her bottom lip, hands clenching and unclenching at her sides. He raised an eyebrow, but said nothing, focusing instead on Lumen.

After a giant yawn, the prince cleared his throat. "Are we all clear with the plan?" he asked, voice steady. His lilac gaze rested primarily on Corona and Aqune, its normally light shade dark and intense. The sisters nodded and Igneous was uncertain if he'd imagined their hesitation, anxiety tingling at his nerves. This had to work. Otherwise, they were entirely out of options… Lumen, apparently oblivious to their uncertainty, returned their nod, turning towards the city gates. "Then we're as ready as we can be. Fight bravely, fellow riders, and may the Oracle grant us victory!"

Igneous moved to stand beside Blaze, her nervous movements increasing in both strength and frequency at the prince's speech. She made no motion to acknowledge his presence, a reaction he likely deserved. "It's ok to be nervous, you know," he murmured, watching as she stiffened. Her head shifted slightly towards him, green eyes peaking at him through the curtain of scarlet tresses. "But remember. You're not alone. We all fight with you." Blaze nodded slightly, her lips pressed tightly together. "It's also ok to be afraid," he tacked on, moving his gaze away from her. The redhead inhaled sharply, nails digging into her palms.

Lumen ordered that the riders join the fight, a strange surge of emotions washing through the newest member. It was time. They jumped from their perch, transforming as they fell. Before anyone moved, a sentence drifted towards Igneous.

"Don't die, Igneous," Blaze whispered, vanishing from sight not a moment later.


Blaze swallowed, narrowly avoiding the blade of the Rod before her. In the same movement, she ducked under its swing to slash at the exposed wire. Sweat glued strands of scarlet hair to the back of her neck, though she was thankful that her armor pinned her bangs away from her damp face. Now, she wouldn't need to worry about that. A bruise was beginning to swell along her cheekbone, an unfortunate encounter with a spear-wielding machine causing the injury.

Gasping, she twirled on Crystal to face her next opponent, the spider moving fluidly beneath her. Her sword collided with the staff of a spear, arms trembling from the resulting shock. She pushed the Rod away, grinding her teeth. No matter how many of these machines she destroyed, more just popped up. Scowling, she disposed of this one as well. The clacking of metal was her only warning for the next attack, her body reacting without thought. In a single swipe, the Rod crumpled to the ground. She would probably have to thank Igneous after this… His training had done wonders for her abilities.

"Blaze!" Crystal cried, jerking the redhead from her stupor. Green eyes widened as she turned, a pointed blade suspended inches from her face by a thin spider web. Forcing down her surprise, she drove her blade through the Rod, cleaning severing the thick wire. Blaze shoved the motionless frame away with a quick kick. "You can't space out like that on a battle field, Blaze! You'll get killed! What's gotten into you?"

Biting her lip, the teen didn't answer. Instead, she caught another weapon on her shield, whipping her sword around to force a shut a shut down. Her blade was intercepted by another, the sharp edge biting into the metal pole. Caught between two opponents she grunted with exertion. Her heart pounded, sweat trickling down her face. If she didn't do something soon, one of her arms would give out. With a final grunt, she leapt back, releasing both of the Rods from where she had been holding them in place. Their momentum flung them forward, their weapons embedding themselves in the other's torso. IN the collision, the tail end of a spear smacked against Blaze's forehead, the girl misjudging how far she needed to be.

She tumbled off Crystal, her vision flickering. Her blood roared in her ears, pain exploding in her skull. Blinking away the spots peppering her sight, the redhead sat up with a groan, a hand pressed against her forehead. Warm blood trickled between her fingers, running in crimson trails down her arm. "What were you thinking?!" Crystal scolded, holding off the Rods while her rider got her bearings. Blaze winced at the volume, her head throbbing. "You're going to get yourself killed if you keep this up!" She sighed, pressing herself a little unsteadily to her feet.

"…I'm scared…" she whispered, blinking rapidly against the wave of dizziness that suddenly swept over her. Crystal paused, startled by the girl's words.

"What? The redhead lowered her hand, fingers tacky with drying blood.

"I said I'm scared! This battle has so much riding on it and I don't know if we can succeed. We have far too much at stake…and I don't want to lose anyone…" Crystal sighed.

"Blaze… I haven't been with you for long enough to know everything about you, but I do know that if you put your mind to something, you'll win, no matter the circumstances. It's alright for you to be scared. But you can't dwell on it, not in the midst of battle. You'll only get yourself killed. We will win. You just have to have faith…"

"I couldn't have said it better myself," a new voice interjected. Corona, atop Venus, stood nearby, the blond's bow drawn and ready to strike. She grinned at Blaze, who could only stare in shock.

"You must have faith, Blaze," another voice intoned, dragging the redhead's attention to a purple battle spider and its rider. Aqune's violet eyes glimmered with concern, her expression soft. Under her stare, Blaze became acutely aware of the thick blood streaming from the swollen injury on her forehead. "It's as Crystal said. If you're afraid of losing those you care for, you must fight to protect them and not let that fear control you."

"And remember," Corona said, her voice gentle. "You don't have to bear the weight alone. We all stand with you." Swallowing harshly, Blaze nodded, blinking up at the sisters. Their presence drove away much of the fear that'd been weighing her down, a response she was more than grateful for.

"Now we have a job to do, remember?" Aqune said, a slight smile curving her lips. A full grin broke out on Blaze's face, the teen scrambling up onto Crystal. "Which way, Blaze?" The teen responded without thought, already knowing the direction they needed to go.

"Follow me guys!" Nudging slightly with her foot, she directed her mount, blade held at the ready. With two more companions, this battle didn't seem quite so hopeless anymore.


"Firebolt!" Igneous cried, flames spurting from the tip of his lance. As the fire washed over several Rods, they froze, their joints locking them in place. The commander leapt through the stiff line, slicing at their weakened structures. Flame caught him as he landed, seamlessly hitting the ground. Behind Igneous, Magma snarled, smashing the head off an approaching machine. Oil sprayed from the attack, dotting the green grass with black stains.

Igneous locked eyes with Magma, a smile twitching on both their faces. The pair jumped away from the slickened spot, the blue-haired man lifting his lance. "Firebolt!" The stream of fire ignited the oil, a sudden explosion of flames melting several Rods and rendering them useless. The two riders grinned at each other, quickly bumping fists. The oil that ran through the machines would lead to their downfall. To think this had been discovered by accident in a forest a few months back. (2)

"Can you two tone it down a little?" Prince Lumen sighed, lilac eyes glued to the now scorched ground. "We will have to clean this later you know…" The smilies melted from their faces, eyes widening at the realization. Their gazes dropped to the ground, watching the still smoldering blades of grass wilt into ash. They would be replanting…again.

A shadow fell over the pair, Igneous whirling around in an instant. His lance flashed in the bright sunlight, a mere blur to the untrained eye. Metal clanged, a metallic skeleton crashing to the ground a moment later. Magma jumped back into the fray as well, brandishing his weapon. The prince stared dejectedly at the forming wreckage, his gaze travelling up to the bright sky as they sighed once more. "Why do I even bother?" He paused, eyes dripping back to the battle. A heavy, bitter scent plagued the once lean air, the lush earth torn and speckled with blood. Releasing a long breath, the blond let his eyes slip shut. "So much destruction… And for what?"

"Maybe you should ask yourself that, Prince Lumen," a silky voice responded, her quick words washing over him. Lumen stiffened, feeling the sharp sting of a blade at his throat. He knew that voice. Swallowing, his hand dropped to the sword at his side. The tip of the sword dug further into his neck at the motion, nicking the frail skin. Warm blood trickled from the shallow cut, his palm slipping from his weapon.

"And why do you say that, Melinda?" Lilac eyes slid to the side, as if attempting to get a glimpse of his captor. "After all, it was you that instigated this." Melinda laughed, the sound sending chills cascading down Lumen's spine. He couldn't help but wonder why she was here. She had actively sought him out this time, and he wasn't sure he wanted to know the reason why.

"Humans have been the cause of destruction since our creation, far before either you or I were even born. And yet, despite all that chaos, you're still beloved by your Oracle. So my master demands your destruction, a goal I can't help but side with."

"Your goal is mankind's destruction."

"Among other things, yes. And what better way to begin than by killing a leader, Prince Lumen? Your riders will fall one by one following your death." At that, Lumen cracked a smile, though the expression was weak at best.

"I don't think it'll be that easy, Melinda. You may have taken one of us, but it's only a matter of time before we gain the upper hand. And then, we'll be making the threats."

"Empty words won't save you." Lumen shrugged, gaze latched onto the smoldering field.

"Maybe not, but I'm sure some fire might." In one quick motion, he grabbed the psychic's hand and pulled, sending her tumbling to the ground in front of him. As she landed, the grass burst into flames, Igneous sprinting to the prince's side. Lumen panted, gingerly brushing his fingers against his injury. Tacky blood stained his skin, running in drying streams to his collar. "Perfect timing as always, Igneous." His commander's hazel gaze glinted with concern, jaw clenched at the prince's frazzled appearance.

"Are you alright, sire?" Lumen waved him off, eyes narrowing at the already dwindling flames.

"I'm fine. It's just a scratch. But we're about to have company." He moved to draw his sword, but Igneous' lance dropped in front of him, halting his movements. Eyebrows furrowing, he glanced at his comrade.

"Remember the plan, Prince Lumen. This is my fight. You are needed elsewhere." The blond scowled, a worry nagging at him.

"Her goal is to kill me, Igneous! I believe that makes this my fight too!" Igneous returned his glare, his grip tightening around the hilt of his lance.

"All the more reason for you to leave. Go help Blaze. She's going to need it far more than I will." Noting that he wasn't likely to win, Lumen rolled his eyes, turning away. It seemed that being a prince didn't grant him much authority when it came to his subordinates. Sighing lightly, the tension drained from his shoulders.

"Fine. Don't destroy my castle." And he ran off. Igneous watched the prince go, relieved that he had actually listened for once. If Lumen's words were true, which they likely were, then he needed to keep the prince as far away from Melinda as possible. His lips twisted into a scowl, drawing his weapon in front of him as the witch stepped out from the flames. A wicked grin gleaned in the scarlet glow, her black blade flashing at her side. Within seconds, she vanished, Igneous blocking her attack the moment she reappeared.

"Hello, Igneous," she greeted, dark eyes alight with pleasure.


Blaze kept her breathing even despite the fact that her heart raced within her chest, pounding harshly against her ribcage. Her hands were shaking, though she managed to keep it hidden. He was close. Very close. Corona glanced her way, blue eyes glimmering with concern. Blaze met her gaze briefly, chewing at her lip. "We're close," was all she conveyed, letting her eyes wander back to their path.

The passing Rods seemed to pay no mind to the group traveling through them, their sudden peace unnerving the girls. Blaze's hand curled around the hilt of her sword, her fingernails digging into her palm. She could feel him nearby, but his presence felt so unbelievably wrong. It scared her. What if their plan failed? What would they do then? She knew what she might be forced to do…though she wasn't sure if she could actually go through with it.

The redhead was so lost in her thoughts that she almost missed it, the familiar crackle on her nerves that could only mean one thing. Her head jerked up, yes narrowed, and she redirected Crystal with a gentle push of her toe. Though she didn't stay on her spider for long. Within moments after feeling that spark, she was shoved from her mount, a cry of pain tearing from her throat. Her side throbbed, her fingers soon wet with her own blood as she pressed a hand to the injury. Grunting through clenched teeth, she pushed herself into a sitting position.

A pair of feet, clad in blue boots, stepped in front of her, a sharp blade pricking at her throat. Sucking in a breath, she lifted her chin, glaring up at the familiar set of emerald eyes. "Hunter," she breathed, swallowing forcefully. It was one thing to hear about her brother, it was another to actually see him. He hadn't changed much since she'd seen him last. Sure, his face was older and more defined than her chubby-cheeked sibling; sure his hair was longer than before. But this was him. This was Hunter.

Corona and Aqune called her name, but Blaze tuned them out, her eyes trained on Hunter. His head cocked to the side, his expression vacant. Even so, a little thrill raced down her spine at his presence. She had to try to help him. "Hunter, it's me," she whispered, her voice a little desperate. "It's Blaze, your sister." He blinked, his weapon digging a little deeper into her neck.

"I don't recognize you," he responded, his voice bringing a gasp bubbling to her lips. It'd been so long since she'd heard him speak. His words almost didn't even register. "You must be a new rider." That struck harder than any blade, her heart shattering at their force. Tears pricked at her eyes, her gaze dropping from his face. It was just as Igneous had said. Hunter was gone. Her hand tightened around the wound on her side, her lips parting to bear her teeth.


If he wanted a fight, she would give him one.

Blaze lurched away from the blade at her throat, rolling to her feet in an instant. Stray tears rolled down bloodstained cheeks as she sprang forward with a cry, cleaving downwards towards Hunter's head. With the same dull stare he'd been giving her since the beginning, he blocked, one of his hands around his weapon's grip and the other reinforcing his block. Stepping to the side, he tilted his lance, her sword slipping off away from him, and sliced at her with the back blade. She let herself fall forward, just narrowly missing the strike.

She landed, gasping, in the dirt, pushing herself up at once. Just as she stood, her brother's blade embedded itself in the ground where she had been laying. Blaze swung around, her sword sweeping out. Hunter yanked his lance out from the earth, catching her attack near the weapon's hilt. Gritting her teeth, she pressed him, her blade digging into the blocking pole. Sweat trickled down her nose, her arms shaking. All that, and absolutely no response. This was going to take more effort than she had anticipated.


Her eyes widened, lifting a leg to shove her brother away. She shot a glance towards the two Handmaidens that had accompanied her, a surge of annoyance sweeping over her at their concerned stares. "I'm fine!" she yelled to them, narrowly dodging an uppercut. "I've got this –shit!" Her blade shot up to intercept his stab, slipping to the side an instant later. "You two worry about what you need to do!"

Her brows furrowed, she focused on her opponent, unable to halt the wave of desperation that crashed over her at her brother's appearance. She would save Hunter, no matter the cost.


Igneous grunted, hazel eyes narrowed. Melinda met his glare calmly, a vicious smirk twitching at her lips. Her expression betrayed no evidence of strain, her blade steady even as his lance shook. He was always surprised at her strength, no matter how many times they fought. She could easily overpower him if she wished, and that fact unnerved him. Gritting his teeth, he pushed her away in a sudden burst of strength.

Melinda stumbled back a few steps, giving him time to leap backwards away from her. She grinned, cold eyes watching him with amusement. "For someone who's trying to stop me from killing your prince, you're not doing a very good job," she remarked. She rushed at him, her sword outstretched. Igneous deflected her slash, following up with a quick stab at her unprotected abdomen. The tip of his lance froze just as it was about to sink into her flesh.

The psychic moved easily away from his jab, raising an eyebrow at the maneuver. "And you're just toying with me," Igneous observed in a growl, pulling uselessly at his frozen weapon. At his words, she snorted, walking up to him slowly.

"Maybe I am." Lifting a foot, she kicked him in the chest, powerful enough to send him crashing to the ground. A cough barking from his bruised lungs, he rolled to his side, a hand pressing against the aching area. "But who can blame me. After all, I need to have fun too." Igneous heaved for air, pushing himself to his knees. He leaned on his lance, his balance unsteady at best.

"Why are you after Prince Lumen?!" He finally made it to his feet, scowling deeply. Her feet, clad in black boots, planted firmly in front of him, she blinked, her smirk flattening. "And if your goal is to kill him, why all this insanity? It would be so much easier to do this quietly."

Melinda laughed quietly, crossing her arms over her chest. "It would, wouldn't it? But Igneous, think. Am I someone who prefers striking from the shadows?" Sucking in a shaky breath, the commander stood, hazel eyes darkening with focus.

"No, you aren't. But I think you've got other intentions. That's why you brought an army. And that's why you brought Hunter." The psychic smiled, a slender finger tapping at her forearm. Igneous, his face pale and tight with pain, ground his teeth, his body tense. Behind him, Arachnian soldiers fought against the machines, the cacophony of battle fading into mere background noise. He'd lost Magma in the chaos some time ago, so it was unlikely that he'd get backup. He could only hope that Blaze was faring better than him.

Hazel eyes widened, his grip tightening around his lance. "Blaze," he whispered, lips numb. Melinda's grin widened, her expression freezing his core. "It's Blaze you're after… But why?" The dark haired woman surprised him by actually responding.

"As a new rider, she represents hope. That hope must be eradicated, and what better way to destroy her than by her own brother's hand." The crystal fixed in his lance's hilt exploded with a scarlet light, a low growl rumbling from deep within his chest. With a wide sweep of his weapon, he released the stored energy in an intense burst of flames, completely engulfing his opponent.

Or so he thought.

The cold sting of metal pressed against his throat, gently pressing up his chin. Melinda shook her head in mock disappointment, her dark eyes locking with his hazel ones. "Why, Igneous. Did I touch a nerve?" Igneous' jaw clenched, his gaze dark and flinty. He hated this damned game that she played with him. And he hated that she even could play with him. His grip was firm around his lance, his knuckles turning white beneath his gloves.

He reached up with a shaking hand curling his fingers around the black blade. The edges dug into his palm, but even a flicker of pain crossed his expression. Surprise shone in the psychic's eyes, her eyebrows furrowing. Lowering the sword carefully, he swept her feet out from under her with a well-placed kick, yanking the weapon from her grasp. Blood oozed from his split palm, running down the length of the blade. Planting a foot on her stomach, he dropped her sword, instead flicking his own lance up to her throat. "You," he growled, the skin between his eyebrows crumpled in fury. "Will not touch her."

The shock drained from Melinda's features. She suddenly looked strangely content with the situation, even with the tip of his weapon poised at her throat. She snorted, smirking up at him. "I never said I would touch her." Igneous tensed as she whistled sharply, listening to the sound echo through the immediate area. What was she planning?

A startled cry sliced through the silence left by the fading whistle, the color draining from the commander's complexion at the sound. She didn't…? His gaze slid upwards, away from his captive, to lock onto the scene he'd feared he see. Blaze struggled against her brother's grasp not far from where he stood. Scarlet smears glued strands of loose hair to her cheek, more soaking along her side. Her lips were pulled up in a snarl, her expression far more angry than scared. Hunter's arms were wrapped tightly around her abdomen, pinning her arms to her sides.

"Blaze!" he yelled, his voice rough with the strength of his cry. Blaze stilled momentarily, meeting his gaze with frantic green eyes. Tear tracks cut through the grime on her face, though he saw no fresh droplets.

"Igneous!" she cried, still attempting to ram her elbow into her brother's stomach. Frustration creased her expression at her failures, but she continued fighting. In his concern, Igneous didn't notice as he stepped away from the fallen psychic. His lance remained in a similar position that it had been before he moved, but his hold was no longer as strong. With his attention no longer focused on her, Melinda was able to quietly sneak away. She quickly located her discarded blade, seizing it without thought. Her eyes, dark and dangerous, flicked to Igneous' unprotected back.


The commander was at a loss. What could he do? He couldn't leave Melinda for fear she'd escape. But Blaze needed him… Abandoning her was not an option. Maybe if he rendered his captive unconscious… Clenching his free hand into a fist, he nodded to himself, blood dripping from between his fingers. Scowling, he moved to turn back to Melinda and froze. Pain erupted from his side, a choked gasp bubbling from his throat.

Hazel eyes dropped, locking instantly onto the blade embedded though the meaty flesh of his abdomen. The sword's tip poked out just above his hip bone, glimmering with wet crimson. That bitch. Melinda laughed behind him, extracting her weapon with excruciating slowness. Agony burst through him at the motions, his vision flashing white. His body jerked when the blade was free of him, his hands flying to the wound to fend off the flow of blood. His legs, suddenly feeling rather numb, folded beneath him. With nobody around to catch him, he collapsed face first onto the scorched dirt.

He'd fallen right into her trap.

Letting his eyes slip shut, he gave in to the tempting darkness. A terrified screech reached his ears as he faded.



Aqune ground her teeth, her eyes serenely shut as she focused on the two keys balanced in her palms. They hovered just above her skin, encased in a slightly glowing bubble. Next to her, Corona stood in a similar position, though her keys didn't glow nearly as brightly. The older sibling sighed inwardly, frustrated at the situation. (3) Corona didn't have nearly enough experience and the time they'd used to 'test' the technique had yielded far more failures than successes. Theoretically, it could work, but practically… She wasn't so sure. But still they continued to try.


At Blaze's concerned cry, Aqune's eyes flew open, searching the battle field for the man in question. Igneous was sprawled on the ground, Melinda standing triumphantly over him, her dark hair billowing in the wind. Blood dripped from her sword, leaving crimson spatters on the commander's cheek. He didn't stir, not even when the psychic stepped over him to walk away. Aqune swallowed, eyes darting over to Blaze, who'd managed to free herself and was attempting to overtake her brother.

The Oracle's power leeched from the air, the keys falling back into her palms. Eyebrows furrowed, she glanced at Corona. The blond offered a soft smile, shrugging slightly at her sister's expression. "Go," she said. "We both know that this wouldn't have worked anyway. Go help Igneous. I'll go help Blaze."

"But…" Aqune argued, her voice quiet. Violet eyes shot towards the twins' battle, concern gleaming in her gaze. Corona rolled her eyes, already running towards the battle. Her bow appeared at her side, the blind reflexively grabbing it the moment it materialized.

"Go!" Aqune's mouth snapped shut, acquiescing with a sharp nod. Turning, she paused before sprinting off.

"Be safe, Corona." Behind her, Corona smiled.

"You too." And Aqune was gone, rushing towards the fallen blue-haired commander. She only hoped it wasn't too late. Skidding to a stop by the injured form, the Handmaiden knelt, scanning him for the extent of his injuries. Even from the back she could recognize the signs that he'd been run through. The ground was saturated with dark red blood, the sheer amount worrying.

Aqune gently turned Igneous onto his back, wincing sympathetically at his low groan. Mouth curving into a scowl, she rested her hands onto the injury, calling upon the Oracle's power. The faint glow was a relief. If Igneous had been beyond saving, her powers wouldn't have worked at all. But that wasn't a concern. Now, she just had to worry about healing him before he was beyond saving. Igneous moaned again, his eyes fluttering open. His face was gray, his lips tinted with blue. "Aqune," he wheezed, voice tinged with surprise.

She ignored him, concentrating intently on the serious wound. It was healing, albeit slowly. His tongue flicked out, wetting his cracked lips. "Aqune…The plan…" Aqune huffed, tearing her eyes away from her healing to glare at him. She really didn't like his coloring. He needed to stay quiet.

"If you haven't noticed, the plan has gone to hell," she informed him sternly, scowl deepening. "But we haven't given up. Relax. We'll take it from here." His hazel gaze was clouded, eyelids already drooping. Blinking up at her a few times, he gave up his struggle for consciousness, body going limp. Aqune took a deep breath, releasing it slowly as she pressed more energy into the healing.

She would not lose him.


Lumen watched.

His lilac eyes scanned the battle, hands curled into tight fists at his sides. This wasn't going well at all. His soldiers crashed against the ranks of the Rods, blood spattering across the once emerald fields. Bodies littered the ground in various states of injury. He'd known each one of those men. And now he would likely have to bury them.

He found Igneous, lying prone in the chaos with Aqune at his side, barely clinging to life. That bitch Melinda had come far too close to taking away his closest friend. His fists tightened, a sharp scowl twisting his expression.

A pained yelp pulled his attention away from his commander. Blaze struggled valiantly against her brother, her body battered and beaten. Lumen could nearly see the turmoil in her expression as she battled the one she loved most. The wrongness of this fight turned his stomach. This wasn't right.

Why had it come to this?

All of this to kill him?

Well, he had other plans.

His gaze darkened with anger, tensing at the footsteps behind him. At least she wasn't going out of her way to sneak up on him. "Beautiful, isn't it, Prince Lumen?" Melinda questioned, amused. "The chaos has a certain allure. It's intoxicating." Lumen wheeled around, snarling at the psychic. She grinned at him, completely unfazed by his anger. "I set all this up. This was my plan. And it has been working flawlessly. Soon, you'll all be kneeling at my feet begging for mercy." The sun shone directly behind the woman, her body a dark silhouette in the horizon.

With a bright flash, a sword appeared at Lumen's side, his hand curling around it slowly. A vein was pulsing on his forehead, his eyes burning with fury. He sprang forward, feinting a frontal assault before diving to the left to slash at her unprotected side. She deflected, sword glancing off his. He stood calmly, though his weapon trembled at his side.

"This ends here, Melinda. I will not allow you to continue playing your fucking games any longer with us. This is my kingdom. And I will protect it with everything I have. I will destroy you once and for all." Her eyes narrowed, sword lifting into a battle stance.

"Ready when you are, 'your highness'. Let's see if you can live up to those words."

DA: So will Lumen prevail? Will Igneous die despite Aqune's efforts? Will Hunter be returned to the side of light? Stay tuned until next update to see!

Well that was exciting. I certainly like to stab people. And hold swords at people's throats. Pissed Lumen has his allure too.

(1) They've been working shifts on the wall surrounding Arachna since the inception of the plan. Also, I just keep thinking Attack on Titan here….

(2) Reference to Robots and Forest Fires. It's a random one-shot based off of a line in this fic. You can find it on my profile.

(3) I always saw Aqune as the older sibling. I'm not sure if this is the case, but this is now my headcanon.

My favorite thing about this chapter is how I move from normal battle scenes to topics like genocide and assassination. This was a children's show everyone. Hehe. Whoops. I'm still kinda uncertain about this chapter. I kept starting and stopping, so the writing may be a little shaky in some places. I apologize if this is true. But I hope you enjoyed nonetheless. The next chapter should be up sometime within the next few months. I plan to finish the story by the end of the summer, mostly because I will be starting graduate school in the fall, and I won't have as much time.

Anyways, leave a review if you like, and I'll see you all next time!

May your hearts stay strong,