A/N: This update is part of my celebration for being on the site for 5 years! That's right; on April 30 5 years ago I made this account, so today I have decided to update all of my stories that are in progress. This does not mean that more updates will be coming soon if ever though.
And here we have Red; part of my fantasy series that has become so much more than I had ever thought it would when I first started. I had decided to abandon this last year, getting new ideas and overwhelmed with all the characters and plots that I had going, sure that there wasn't a way to really bring it all together the way I wanted. This may be my last update for this story, but there is so much in this world that I've fallen in love with. Zack and Cody have become so much more to me here, as I've formed this AU they've become my characters, and
Thanks to Wyntirsno for betaing.
'Silent tears of pain we cried,
Raise our hands unto the sky
Break the chains that bind us,
One moment in time as we rise'
Holding On, Dragonforce
Red Chapter 6: Saving Light; Looming Darkness
Aaron, Heather, and Bailey stood gazing at the blinding light that had swept across the battlefield. Aaron still held a wall of earth around him should anyone try sticking him during this confusion. An uneasy silence filled the air, but no one was ready to admit the battle was over.
Heather and Bailey eyed the light as they stood over the twins, Aaron turning to them, wishing they would just run while they had a chance. If whoever made that light chose they wanted to fight, Aaron knew they'd all be dead in seconds.
"Setsuna!" Natsu's voice rang out…surprise, and maybe even fear evident from his tone.
So, Setsuna, whoever she was, must not be their enemy…
"Natsu, rushing into a battle without knowing who you are fighting could spell catastrophe for us," she said, the light beginning to fade revealing her figure. She had long blond hair flowing down her body, white armor adorning her chest and shoulders, and a sword that seemed to glow held out before her.
"We had them though," Reney protested.
"I hardly broke a sweat here," Natsu said with a shrug of his shoulders.
Aaron knew now might be his only chance to strike. Natsu was distracted with Setsuna and seemed to be ignoring those he was fighting just moments ago. With a well-placed strike, he could take all three of them down. Still, he waited, curiosity demanding he heard the rest of this conversation. He might lose his opportunity to strike, but the information could be even more important
"Perhaps, but did you think of who you were attacking before you rushed into battle?"
"They broke into our base, they have to be spies from the Nightwings," Natsu said.
Aaron's eyes went wide.
So, these elementals were on their side after all?
"If you took the time to learn about your enemy you would discover that they too are enemies of the Nightwings."
"You guys are?" Natsu asked looking to those just seconds ago he had tried to kill.
"Yeah, we just needed a place to rest for the night," Aaron said, waiting for some twist, some surprise. He wasn't about to trust them so easily, but now wasn't the time to chase away a potential ally. Especially knowing that he couldn't match all three of them and the twins needed help now.
"Well why didn't you say so, just come on in," Natsu said as he eagerly walked up to them and began leading them back into the base. Heather quickly followed, but Aaron and Bailey were more cautious.
"You are wise not to trust us so easily," Setsuna said as Reney chased after Natsu.
Aaron looked on, not sure what to say to the powerful warrior who stood just inches away from him now.
"You could have killed us all if you wanted to," Aaron said, broken that he was so weak he couldn't do anything to stop those this powerful. He knew he wasn't the strongest, he had a gift, but it was nothing compared to the power some people possessed. And here he was, thinking that he could be a hero. Looking all around him, he saw the costs of his failure; the battle torn land, the blood along the ground from himself and his friends, and the twins so close to death.
Aaron moved over to the twins, glancing over his shoulder, waiting for Setsuna to reveal her true nature at any moment. He knew he was being paranoid, and even if she was planning something, he knew there was no way he could stop her. But still, he had to be ready.
"Let me get them," she said returning her blade to her sheaf and picking up Zack. Aaron wanted to object, not willing to let his friend so close to a potential enemy, but trusted that this was the right thing to do, even if it was only because he had no other options.
"Okay, thank you," he said as he scooped Cody up, surprised at how heavy he was for being so thin. After that battle though, he was ready to collapse, but had to get his friend to safety.
"So what happened to them? They don't look like they were directly hurt much by the battle," They had a number of bruises, burns, broken bones, and were likely in a lot of pain, but Setsuna found it strange that they would be in this bad of condition.
"They've been affected by something since we got to this world," Bailey explained. "I guess this last battle really pushed them too far."
"Probably something the Nightwings did," Natsu said as he leaned against the wall, a small ember sprouting from his nose in tune with his breaths.
"You think it was Angie?" Bailey pondered.
"You met the Nightwing general?" Setsuna said shocked that they were alive after an encounter like that.
"Yeah, she saved us from some Quarons and then used some kind of healing magic on Cody," Bailey explained, now seeing how ignorant they were.
"That was probably just a trick," Natsu said, his anger growing more just thinking about them. "You can't trust those bastards; they're all just heartless murderers."
Aaron couldn't help but wonder what the Nightwings had done to Natsu. He saw the pain the teen was in just thinking about them, and could tell Natsu was doing everything he could to control his fury.
"I guess we should have been more careful," Bailey said.
"Still, Angie seemed so nice," Heather added. Though, she knew that it was probably just a lie, a mask to get them to lower their guard. Looking back, she saw how stupid she was, how stupid they all were for believing such a hallow display of kindness. They were in the land of their enemies, and had seen the destruction the Nightwings caused on earth. They weren't afraid to kill innocents, so why should things be any different in their world?
"How do we know we can trust you though?" Bailey asked.
"We didn't kill you," Reney said. "If we wanted you dead, with Setsuna here, do you really think you guys could do anything to stop us?"
"Yeah, you're right," Heather sighed. She really wanted to punch the wind elemental for that comment. Even if she wasn't their enemy, she hated anyone belittling her like that. So she decided to mumble a few things under her breath instead of resorting to violence…at least for now.
"Let me see if I can heal these twins. Being a light elemental, I should be able to use my powers to heal them," Setsuna said, causing the others to think of Angie saying she'd do the same thing to Cody when she really did something far more sinister. Though, Aaron wondered why Zack was also affected if Cody was the only one she used magic on.
Aaron tried thinking of the possibilities, maybe Angie had also cast a spell on Zack without them noticing, or maybe it was another Nightwing who they didn't notice. But why just the twins? Was it because they were dimensionals, and therefore more susceptible?
Setsuna began gathering a faint white light in her hands while the others looked on, Aaron, Heather, and Bailey wondering what the extent of a light elementals powers were.
The light began bathing the twins, a soothing feeling coming over all in the room. Their tiredness from the day of travel and battle all faded in the presence of the eerie light that began encompassing the whole room. They felt as if they could take on anyone.
But after a moment of being encased in the light, it began fading, confined to just Setsuna's hands and a faint glow that still covered the twins. Their injuries and burns from the battle were restored to normal, white covering them as the skin repaired itself.
Zack began to sit up, his body wide awake despite the time of day and how tired he was just hours ago. He looked around, seeing both friend and foe surrounding him. He noticed his brother beside him, and without time to consider what had happened, he jumped back to his feet, ready to continue the battle. He had to make sure they didn't do anything to hurt Cody again.
"Calm down Zack," Heather said once he brought out his sword ready to swing it at the first person to make a move.
With his mind calmed down enough to take it his surroundings, he noticed the battle had ended. Lowering his guard, he released his hold on the blade and it vanished. He wasn't ready to relax yet though; they had been through too chaotic of a day to rest this easily.
"What's going on here?" Cody asked, now getting up beside his brother. He tried to remember how he ended up back in the underground shelter, but the last thing he remembered he was trying to kill the two elementals at the other side of the room. His friends all seemed okay though, and this new person didn't seem to be here to fight.
"Those two," the new woman said as she pointed to Natsu and Reney, "decided since you were in our base of operations, you must be our enemy, despite not knowing anything about you. I deeply apologize for the trouble they have caused."
So these were new allies?
"That's okay, I just want to know what's going on here," Cody said.
"Well," Setsuna said walking back a few steps so she was facing the new group. "I have seen that you came here to battle the Nightwings, to save your world from them."
"How do you know this?" Cody asked, shocked that these strangers discovered their secret so easily.
"That's a good question. However, the lesser Nightwings are easily willing to reveal secrets when they fear for their life."
"So you beat that out of them," Zack asked, entranced and slightly afraid of the elemental.
"That is a nice way of putting it," she said with a smile that told the others not to make her mad. "Through further interrogations, I was able to learn more about you, and discover where you entered our world. Apparently the Nightwings took notice of the ancients that opposed them during the battle in your world."
"So they know we're here," Cody said. That would ruin the chance of a surprise attack on them, there was no doubt the Nightwings would be ready for an attack, and with that large of an army, it would not be easy to stop them.
"And your goal is to reach the castle and destroy their portal, is it not?" Setsuna asked.
"Exactly," Zack said.
"Which since they also know that, they will have additional troops around the castle, making a successful attack against them devastating, both on your world and ours."
"So you're saying that we should just walk right into the heart of their defenses with only 8 people?" Cody knew the impact of a victory here would be a huge blow to the Nightwings, but how were they supposed to defeat such a powerful army themselves? The Nightwings had an army of millions, if not more. At the very least, thousands would be ready to battle them.
"You have a plan, don't you?" Natsu asked with a grin.
"Their portal requires a tremendous amount of magical energy to keep functioning. What do you think would happen if we were to simply unleash all that power?"
"An explosion that would destroy anything and anybody within the city." Natsu began laughing at the thought. He was ready to go fight them, right now, to unleash that tremendous destructive power, to set the royal city aflame with their own power.
"Won't that include us too?" Heather asked, not really liking the idea of being blown up with the rest of the place.
"If you guys don't get out in time, but if we time the charges right, you can run through the portal before the explosion happens. You get home safely, the portal is destroyed, and the Nightwings lose their capital city."
"Let me guess, there's a catch," Aaron said, knowing things couldn't be that easy.
"Well, in order for this to work, we will need you, earth elemental. In order for this to work we will need to tunnel under the castle, thereby bypassing the majority of the soldiers."
Aaron wasn't sure he would be able to do something like that. He had never tried pushing his powers in such a way, to move all the rock around them for that long of a distance. Still, he knew the value of being able to attack them like that; able to bypass a pointless battle they couldn't win. "Okay," he said though he was starting to shake with fear. 'I can do this,'he thought to himself, sure that it couldn't be too hard. Or at least hoping so.
"When do we attack them?" Zack asked.
"We can start traveling toward the castle city tomorrow, it will take about a day of walking to get there, and then the next day we will strike." Setsuna looked to the group, looking for signs of hesitation. They'd have to be perfectly ready for what would come. If they weren't they could easily die. "That will give us a day of rest and to make sure we are ready for this."
"You nervous?" Cody asked, noticing Aaron had stayed away from them for the past few hours. Though through the clamber of new allies, questions about their different worlds, and plans laid for tomorrow, he had.
"Why shouldn't I be, you're all relying on me to do this? What if I mess up?" Aaron said, burying his head into his hands, just wanting to fade from this world, and the responsibility he faced. He thought back to the many times, where he wanted to be the one to set things right, never imagining that so much could rely on just one.
But, that was what made a hero.
"You just have to have faith in yourself, and in us. You've already shown how strong you are, this will be simple for you."
However, before Aaron could reply, he heard a shout from within their shelter.
"No time to rest, a few hundred Nightwings are on their way, now!" Setsuna said causing both Cody and Aaron to turn to her.
"You have got to be kidding me," Cody said, his body way too tired to be moving this quickly.
"Aaron, it's time."
With a nod, the young earth elemental knew what he had to do. All doubts, fears, they had to be pushed to the side.
"Let's do this."
The three of them journeyed to the lowest point in the base, where the rock appeared to be the softest, the most malleable, and Aaron focused on it, feeling through it for miles. He tried to see through it, let the stone become his vision as he closed his eyes. He felt something in the distance, a giant foundation that could only be built by people. He couldn't make out anything more, just the direction he had to go. But that was enough.
"We ready?" Aaron asked, assuring himself as much as anyone that now was the time. With silent nods and quiet yeses from everyone, Aaron dug through the earth, forming a path before him. Natsu summoned a small flame in his hand to illuminate their path as the passage closed behind them.
Bailey clung closer to Cody, feeling claustrophobic all over again, the thought of being imprisoned by Ryo coming back to the forefront of her mind. She had to remember she was with her friends now, her savior right by her side. She wasn't just some weak kid anymore, she could fight, and the one who hurt her before was dead.
Cody took some heavy breaths, wrapping his arm around her, and he could feel her fear fleeing. That was good, whatever they were going to face up ahead they would need to do so with clear minds.
Aaron felt his body strained with each step they took, the path getting longer and longer, so much so that he barely remembered what direction they needed to be burrowed in.
"Good work bro," Heather said, deciding now was not the time for ridicule. "You're almost there."
"Really? It will be at least a few more hours," Setsuna said, a much more accurate estimate, to Aaron's way of thinking. But still, they were making progress, he only hoped he strength would last that long.