Kailor: Glad you all enjoyed that last one! Here we go again! And the twists are not over yet! And nobody forget that last chapter! It's one of the biggest twists!
Nuriko: Reviews, friends!
Rikku: We're getting close to the end now!
Kailor: Oh and, WhiteHairRules, I have started the story for you. It's called Bree and I've already put it on here. Hope you like it.
Okay, now everything hurt.
Setsuna groaned, sitting up in her cot. Her chest felt like she'd been shot with an ar-oh. Well. She forced her legs over the edge of the cot and stood, shakily. The small table beside her was covered in bandages and blood and ointments. Her shirt was sticking to her in places, proof that these ointments had been tried on her. She could feel chi moving through her that wasn't her own. Remnants from the gods bringing her back, probably. Or maybe from her friends trying to save her.
Someone was yelling outside. A sob sounded just outside the tent.
At the tent flap, she paused. She took a deep breath to steady herself, then moved it aside.
Vaiden was knelt in the center of the ring of tents, his hands and legs bound. Rakan stood over him, his giant sword stuck in the earth beside him. The ring of people watching didn't notice Setsuna in the tent doorway. They were crying or glaring, or just staring blankly. People she didn't know were calling out for her brother's death.
Konoka, off to the right, was being supported by Asuna and Asakura. Konoka's face was streaked with tears and her cheeks were red and her lip trembled. Asakura's face was blank, dazed. Asuna looked angry. Like she wanted to kill Vaiden herself.
"I didn't do this!" Vaiden cried to the crowd. "I would never hurt Setsuna! Please!"
"You're a liar as well as a murderer." Rakan growled. He threw something to the ground before Vaiden. A purple bandana. At the sight of it, Vaiden went still, his eyes getting wider. Rakan snorted. "In the face of evidence you have nothing to say, boy?"
Vaiden just shook his head, opening and closing his mouth like he couldn't catch his breath.
"I have something to say."
The rippling effect that went through the crowd was a little intimidating. Every head turned to face her. People gasped. Those closest to her stumbled back, as if she was going to bring her death to them. Rakan fell back against his sword, knocking it out of the earth and it crashed beside Vaiden. Someone fainted.
Setsuna walked slowly to Vaiden's side, holding her aching chest. She dropped beside him, breathing a lot heavier than she should be for such a short walk. "Look like you could use some help, brother." She cocked her head to the side, grinning.
Vaiden cocked his head the other way, then shook it slowly. "I should have known. Can't keep you down, sister."
"We'll see about that," she huffed. "Untie him."
Rakan leapt to obey.
Setsuna stood, swaying slightly as the world tilted a bit. The crowd was silent, full attention on her. She tried to speak, then coughed, her weak body rocking forward with the spasm. A hand grabbed her shoulder, pulling her upright. Konoka. The small brunette wrapped her arms around the swordsman, holding her up. Her hand gripped the back of Setsuna's tunic and she tucked her head into Setsuna's shoulder.
Setsuna offered her a weak smile and turned back to the crowd. "It was Magden that attacked me, pretending to be Vaiden." She told them the whole story up to the part where Magden shot her. Then she said, "And I woke up here in the tent. I'm sorry to have scared anyone. I'm going to be okay. But we have more urgent matters. Byron marches on us. He must know of our grouping here on the border and he has started the war early. Cairo has heard this news as well, and as we speak he gathers his army. We must prepare. The war has begun."
For a moment no one moved. It must have been quite a shock to hear a girl that had just apparently risen from the dead commanding them. Then Ku shook herself out of it, calling, "To arms! Prepare the catapults!"
The camp began to move again, bustling about, grabbing weapons and supplies. People that passed Setsuna gave her a wide berth, whispering prayers to the gods. She almost laughed.
Setsuna's friends gathered around her, all asking questions, all jostling to hug her next. Vaiden took her hand, pulling her over to him. "I'm sorry. Magden just-"
"I know. I know what happened. And I know you refused to kill me."
"How do you-"
"I can't tell you that." Setsuna sighed. "It's too hard, too much, to explain. I'm just glad I woke in time to save you."
"I'm sorry I didn't do the same for you." Vaiden said, his eyebrows drawn together.
"Don't worry about it." Setsuna said. "You'll just owe me one."
Konoka managed to fight her way back to Setsuna's side. "Can we go somewhere?"
Setsuna smiled. "Anywhere."
Heart carried them from camp, to the top of the hill, overlooking the tents and fires of their comrades. At the crest of the hill, Konoka slid to the ground, reaching back up to help Setsuna. They sat in the grass, watching the sun falling and the camp rushing about. Konoka pulled Setsuna down, placing the swordsman's head in her lap. "Welcome back."
"Good to be back," Setsuna sighed as Konoka's fingers trailed through her hair.
"You were dead." Konoka said, her voice low. "I saw you. Felt you. You were so cold. How are you here?"
For a moment, Setsuna wanted to tell her everything, But Konoka had already lost her once today, and who knew how long the war would last? She could have hours left, but she could also have all the way to the blue moon, or months even if they were unfortunate enough to not be able to stop all of this before Camrin's escape. No point burdening Konoka with this.
"Don't leave me again, okay?" Konoka had obviously taken Setsuna's silence to mean she didn't know either.
Setsuna's stomach clenched. She turned her head and found Konoka's eyes on her face, glimmering wet in the fading sunlight. Setsuna reached up, touching the sparkling drops running down Konoka's cheek. "I never left you." Konoka began to sob. "I never will." And then they were both crying, holding each other close.
When the sun was fully below the horizon, they rode back. Setsuna immediately fell into her cot and slept, dreamlessly.
She woke with Konoka's warmth against her back and Kaede's hand on her wrist. "It is time. The scouts have returned. Byron's forces will be here within the hour."
Setsuna sat up, still a little sore, but feeling much better. Which was a sick joke, she thought, since she was going to die again soon. She roused Konoka and they headed out to Ku's tent. The rest of their group had gathered there already.
Asakura appeared, carrying some lightweight, plated armor and a shirt of chainmail. She handed the plated armor to Konoka and the chainmail to Setsuna.
Ku approached, her own chainmail shirt rustling softly. "Mornin', Captain."
"What?" Setsuna said, confused.
"I'm making you one of my captains. You, Mana, Rakan, Emily, and Takahata. The strongest, most experienced, and most skilled. We will wear chainmail so that our soldiers can easily locate us, but the enemy will not immediately pick us out."
Setsuna shook her head. "I'm none of those. I can't-"
"You are not experienced as the rest. Not as strong as some of the people here, I'm sure. Maybe not the most skilled." Ku smiled. "But your people would die for you. You inspire something in them that makes them pick up a sword and leap into the fray beside you. My people have already started to notice it, when you and I were recruiting."
"I never even spoke! You did everything!"
"True." Ku shrugged. "But you were at my side. And I was listening to you by calling my people to arms. If their queen would follow you, why wouldn't they?"
Setsuna almost continued to protest, but the image of Kieran holding his book to his chest flashed through her mind. Maybe this was his influence. Maybe this was really all because she had led their small group to this point. "Led" being a loosely applied word to her. She sighed and pulled on the chainmail.
"That'a gal. Now, we're-"
Setsuna turned in time to see Emily gallop into camp astride a dark gray wolf. She hopped to the ground, rushing to Setsuna's side, her chainmail rustling. "Setsuna, it wasn't him. Or it won't be. I don't know yet-"
"Emily." Setsuna snatched Emily's flailing hands, without thinking. This time, when their skin made contact, it was different. Maybe because she had initiated it, or because they were holding contact this time. But she saw everything Emily did. Magden shooting her, Collie's smile, Kieran's white robes, Vaiden's ropes being untied, Konoka's face as the sun's last rays painted shadows into it...
Emily pulled her hand back, gasping. Tears had filled her eyes. "Setsuna. You're-"
"Alive, yes!" Setsuna abruptly hugged the girl, avoiding her skin. "I healed rather quickly. We can talk about it as we get prepared for the battle to come!"
Luckily, Asakura appeared that moment, slinging an arm around Setsuna's shoulders. "Yeah! Where do I go to get my face painted all warrior-like?" She winked conspiratorially, making Setsuna think that perhaps it hadn't been luck that brought Asakura to save her at that moment.
Ku npdded, laughing. "Over there. All of you, go get painted up. Then meet at my tent for final prep." As an afterthought, she added, "Actually, Konoka. You come with me now. We need to speak."
Setsuna frowned. Why did Ku need to speak to Konoka? The princess flashed her a smile and a "see you soon" and followed the queen to her large tent.
Asakura tugged Setsuna's arm and motioned for Emily to follow. "I feel like we three have some talking of our own to do. You two know something, and seeing as I just saved your asses, I want to know too."