A/N: Not much to say, other than I hope you enjoy this chapter.
ToV: The Overlooking Crown
Chapter 4: Stillborn Rebellion
The ballroom, still aglow though the lights are dimmed, embraced the hushed whispers of the crowd within. The emperor, young in years but firm in his duty, had politely called for their attention. Ioder patiently awaited the fulfillment of his request before he spoke, "I want to thank each one of you for gracing this ballroom with your presence." It was a gracious opening, but the way he spoke did not sound so welcoming. He spoke slowly, as if softening them before lowering the hammer over their heads.
The older gentleman of the crowd slowly took of their monocles and glasses. Their eyes, once indifferently glancing over the celebration, now looked upon the young emperor in silent anxiety. Ioder was never known to speak in such a way.
"I'm sure some of you are confused." Ioder turned to look at all those about him. "I'm sure some of you, are confused about why I am speaking to you now." He spotted a few hopeful eyes and quickly continued, "If you are hoping to hear a separate set of vows from me, perhaps vows that will ensure your prosperity for my entire reign."
Yuri carefully glanced about and stepped closer to Estelle. The pink-haired princess was too captivated by Ioder's behavior to notice that he was on edge. He knew what was coming, and he made sure to position himself to act if he needed to.
"That vow will not come this night." Ioder bluntly dashed any hope held within the hearts filled with greed. His expression looked sad and a little pained. "I've seen many things after only two years of sitting on the throne, and though I had no crown to call my own yet, the weight of ruling the Empire still pushed on my shoulders." His eyes flicked down to Belle. He saw her green eyes flash with support, and he thanked her for it with all of his heart.
"Ever since the death of the former Emperor, corruption has only festered within our Empire." Ioder looked back to the nobles with a glow in his eyes that was rarely seen. "It became the rust on our blade of hope, and a disease that was slowly killing the nation our ancestors fought so hard for." He raised a hand to point towards the window, "Not only that, we shed the blood of our own countrymen and the people that look to us for leadership and protection."
Rita softly snorted at his words. Whatever he was about to say, she was sure she'd agree. However, she knew these people won't take too well to what he will say next. Her eyes traveled the room before stopping at Fen, who stood at her side. Rita's eyebrows scrunched in wonder when she saw Fen's eyes flick from side to side, as if looking for something.
"The very people who should be acting in not only their own interest, but the interest of everyone let down the people celebrating out there." Ioder jabbed his finger to the window. "In this room are politicians who turned a blind eye as mother and fathers cried out for justice at the taking of their innocent children. Out there are people who have been trampled on, and spat upon simply because they desired justice." Ioder met each gaze that coldly looked back at him. "And I am the emperor that will give them that justice."
Above, Flynn kept his eyes focused on the disguised Joseph across from him. He couldn't tell because of the visor of the knight's helmet Joseph wore, but Flynn could feel his gaze on him. Slowly, as a hush fell over the occupants of the ballroom, Joseph raised one hand. Flynn watched in confusion as Joseph raised three fingers.
Applause cut through the cold silence, as a single man stepped out from the crowd. Though he was the only one clapping at Ioder's words, he did so with fervor. His curly brown locks rustled as his eyes remained focused on Ioder, "Bravo Emperor Ioder, bravo." He clapped once more before clasping his hands together, "Very well spoken your highness, an admirable speech."
Yuri locked eyes with Fen before looking up to Flynn. He met Flynn's confused gaze before looking at the crowd around him. It was almost time, and he would need to act quickly.
"Philip Eaglewood," Ioder gave a name to the charismatic face that spoke to his guests. "You have more to say than just praises I assume?" If anyone doubted that there was any animosity between the two, then it all left with Ioder's hard glare. To those in the Council, it was no secret that Philip Eaglewood was nothing but the antithesis to Ioder's convictions.
"Your Majesty, I have little more to say than what has already been said." Philip gave Ioder a low, mocking bow before looking up once more. His green eyes shined with the craftiness of a fox before he smirked arrogantly. "However, I do believe there is much more to be done." He lifted his hand slowly, drawing out the moment.
His fingers snapped crisply before the ballroom doors were suddenly flooded by intruders with black cloaks. On the cloaks, an elaborate, floral symbol made of thin silver strokes were emblazoned on their chests and back. The crowd of nobles were aghast at the display, some gasping and screaming in shock at the sudden intrusion. The cloaked intruders then brandished swords before they encircled the crowd, herding them around Ioder.
Above, Flynn turned to command the nearest guards to prepare themselves. However, all he saw were more cloaked warriors herding the part guests into small groups. Out of pure, protective instinct, Flynn went to draw his sword, but Philip stopped him.
"Ah pep pep," Philip pointed up to Flynn without breaking his staring contest with Ioder. "Not so hasty Commandant," he motioned to his surroundings, "it would be a shame for people to die because you failed to assess the situation completely."
Ioder's glare hardened, "Eaglewood," he growled.
"Please Ioder," Philip raised his palm to the simmering emperor, "I am merely completing the will of our ancestors." He did not give time for confused questions before addressing the crowd, "We have spent the last two years praising the heroes that saved us from the Adephagos." He pointedly glanced at Yuri and Estelle, "Its inspirational really, to give praise to those who deserve it, and reward those who sacrifice for our prosperity."
"Get to the point already." Yuri glared at the curly brown hair that was the back of Philip's head.
Philip slowly turned to stare over his shoulder at Yuri. "My point, my fellow countrymen and women," he sharply turned and pointed his finger at Ioder, "is that it is time for the proper house, the house who sacrificed love, sweat, tears, and blood, to take the throne of Zaphias!"
Gasps tore through the bewildered ballroom. Estelle looked to Yuri, "We need to do something." Her worried gaze grew confused by Yuri's calm expression. She saw him slowly reach for the sword at his hip, having hid it under the formal cloak of his outfit.
"What exactly do you plan to do Eaglewood?" Ioder's harsh expression grew calmer, more serene.
Philip chuckled, "I wish to remove you from your place Ioder, and give the crown to someone worthy of rule over the Empire." He motioned to one of the closed doors of the ballroom, "To give the Empire to its true king!" It was both the signal, and the confession of treason against the crown.
"I said, to the true king!" Philip repeated his words with rage underlying his voice. When moments ticked by without any movement, he rushed to the door at the side of the ballroom. He forced the door open with wild, fearful eyes. The horror that he had suspected was indeed shown to be the truth. Beyond the doors, there was nothing but the dim halls of the castle. "Where," he snapped his head from one side to the other, "where is he! Where did he go!"
Flynn looked down from the second floor of the ballroom, "Where is who, Eaglewood?"
Hands tangled in his hair in disbelief, Philip cried out, "No, no, no, what is this?" He entered the ballroom once more and growled, "That part can wait. The least I can do for now is get rid of you and any possible interference."
"That," Fen loudly started, "is where you're wrong."
Yuri sighed and shrugged, "You really should be more perceptive." He drew his sword, Second Star, and slung it over his shoulder, "You've been surrounded from the moment you opened your big mouth."
Estelle blinked in surprise and looked up at Flynn. Her confusion only multiplied when she saw that he looked equally taken back.
"What are you going on about?" Philip's arrogant smirk returned, though it held much less security as before. His plan was being executed far from perfectly, but he still had the upper hand. "In case you've gone blind Lowell," he stepped behind his cloaked men, "I have you outnumbered, and in a room full of non-combatants. You'd never risk getting them killed in a desperate attempt to stop me."
Yuri's indifferent expression slowly took on a smug smirk. Philip's confusion increased before realization finally hit him. Eyes widening, he finally took a long look at the people who filled the ballroom. Some, he knew, were indeed nobility. However, a great deal of the celebration's guests he could not recognize. "Non combatants?" He slowly looked over to Fen, "You want to do the honors?"
"No, no Cap'n," Fen folded his arms with a grin, "I think you should be the one to do it."
With a nod, Yuri yelled, "Black Brigade, round up!" What followed his loud command would be remembered for years to come. Half of the women who wore large, elaborate dresses, ripped off the bottom half of their gowns. Beneath each, two armed Black Brigade members rolled to the side and drew their weapons. The waiters and waitresses dropped their _ and tore off their powdered wigs before brandishing swords, staffs, or compact bows.
From Flynn's vantage point, he could hardly believe just how many of the guests were brigade members in disguise. Shamelessly allowing his mouth to fall open slightly, he looked to the guests on his floor of the ballroom and watched as even more Black Brigade members revealed themselves. He roughly counted in his head and was surprised to discover that it was not the the party guests who were outnumbered. Philip and his band were the ones facing a force double their numbers, and most likely double the skill.
"My God," was all Flynn could mutter in his shock. How did this go off without his knowing? How did all of these disguised fighters get past his knights? How did they manage to act their way through a party of upper-class citizens? Were nobles so consumed by themselves that they do not even take note of their neighbor's faces? All these questions not only flooded the mind of the Commandant, but also the mind of Philip Eaglewood.
Ioder watched Philip with the gaze of an emperor in perfect control. Not once had he doubted Yuri's scheme to fail. "Surrender Eaglewood, your insurrection has failed miserably."
"Do you think I would place all of my cards on the table at once?" Philip tried for some semblance of confidence, "As we speak, my men are taking the pressure points of this city. We'll use the Lower Quarter trash to get you off the throne Your Grace." He spat the title like a venom. However, his threat was met once more by the sigh of Yuri.
Yuri slowly lifted his hand and pointed his thumb to the large windows of the ballroom. From the windows, the occupants could see flares go off in the distance. "Yeah, about those 'pressure points' you mentioned," his smirk grew, "I had two old friends lead a little counter operation."
"But, h-how did you-?" Philip staggered.
"Lets just say we consulted an expert on taking control of Zaphias." Yuri looked up at the disguised Joseph Lowell across from Flynn. "Now," Yuri looked at Philip with hard eyes, "are you going to give up, or do we have to do this the hard way?" As if to emphasize his point, the Black Brigade members closed in on the intruders and Philip.
Philip clenched his jaw as tightly as he could. Everything, every part of his plan had been ruined. His flustered expression stilled when an idea struck him. Not everything had been ruined. "I applaud such a shrewd display Lowell." His eyes glared sharply at the leader of the Black Brigade, "I truly underestimated just how resourceful a rat of the Lower Quarter can be." He hid his hand behind his back and stroked the ring that wrapped around his middle finger.
"From where I'm standing, you're the one trapped like a rat." Raven stared hard the calm traitor. He readied his compact bow in case of any funny business.
Philip looked to him and then to Ioder, "Not trapped my friends," he smiled bitterly, "a man of my stature always makes a way of escape." In a swift motion, he brought the ring forward and spoke an incantation to activate the device. A bright flash of light momentarily blinded everyone, and gave Philip all the time he needed to escape with three of his men.
Yuri cursed before looking to Philip's abandoned followers, "Drop your weapons now!"
After moments of a tense stand off, the insurrectionists laid down their weapons. The Black Brigade made quick work of arresting each intruder and collected all of their weapons. Karol quickly divided the large group into teams and issued patrols to round up any possible stragglers and to look for Philip Eaglewood. The rebellion to remove Ioder from the throne was soundly thwarted, and would be known for ending without a drop of bloodshed.
However, the cost of ending the insurrection was paid for in blood. Flynn swiftly descended the stairs of the ballroom and yelled to his old friend, "Yuri, what the hell was that!" He looked to Ioder, "Your Majesty, I was not informed of this stunt, and you have my deepest apologies."
"You don't have to apologize Flynn." Ioder smiled apologetically, "I was well aware of Yuri's trick." He bowed slightly, "I'm sorry for not telling you."
Flynn recoiled, stunned, "Why didn't you tell me?" He turned to Yuri with an angered glare, "I could have helped, provided more security."
"That's exactly why we did tell you." Yuri shook his head, "Sorry Flynn, but we knew that if we leaked this operation to the knights in any way, it would have messed up the plan." His dark eyes didn't waver when Flynn's gaze grew piercing. Yuri watched his friend shake slightly before he took a step towards him, fist clenched at his side.
"So is that what the Black Brigade is to become," he started with a low voice, "A band of shady ex-soldiers that can act outside of the authority of the Union and the Empire!"
Yuri sighed once again before turning his back to his friend. With a flippant wave of his hand, Yuri started for the doors of the ballroom. "Call it what you want," he stopped in front of the exit, "but its thanks to us that there's no mess to clean up." Before he stepped out, Yuri looked at Estelle, and he silently asked if she wanted to stay with Ioder or come with him.
Estelle hesitated and looked at Flynn's displeased frown before making her way to Yuri. Deep within her heart, she hoped this would be just another of those fights between the two friends. However, that very same heart also sensed that this time, the wound won't heal so quickly.
"Yuri," Estelle held his arm with her own and stopped him, "you're keeping secrets again." She dipped her head to ponder her next few words. Her eyes went to the large window they had stopped in front of, and she looked out into the veil of night that covered Zaphias.
The sight didn't go unnoticed by Yuri either. He watched as the celebration continued, as if nothing had just transpired on this night. A small smile made its way onto Yuri's face at knowing that it was through stopping the insurrection that he could let this peace continue. His short confrontation with Flynn had planted the seeds of doubt, but this sight brushed that doubt away. He did, however, regret letting Estelle down. He gently pulled her into a one-armed hug and waited for her head to drop onto his shoulder. "Yeah I know, I'm sorry I just didn't want to get you worked up over something this small."
Estelle tightened her hold on Yuri's arm, "That's not fair Yuri." She felt his chin move as his head tilted in question. The young princess felt a warmth behind her eyes before closing them gently, "You've done so much for all of us, shouldn't you let us help you too?"
"I think you help me enough." Yuri said in a suggestive tone. It was purely a joke, seeing how Estelle always got flustered ever since she caught on to what he meant when joking like that.
The pink head rested on Yuri shoulder gently moved upwards against his chin, "I mean it Yuri." Estelle stepped back to give him a serious, stern look. Though it lacked intimidation, her eyes did shine with a light that demanded he be serious. "Promise me you won't keep any secrets from me anymore."
"Define a secret." Yuri flinched at her demand. Out of pure shock, Yuri yelped when Estelle reached her hand up and pinched his cheek.
Yuri reached up and gently removed her hold on his face, "Alright, alright," he held her hand in his and squeezed it firmly. His eyes lost any semblance of mockery. Using the firm tone that had saved her from the hands of a crazed commandant, Yuri said, "Estelle, I promise, no more secrets."
The pink-haired girl was taken back by his tone, but delighted that he had used it. It was rare to hear him talk like that, and she took a personal pleasure in knowing that it was most often aimed at her. She was certain that any onlookers would have found it strange that Yuri's stern voice touched her heart just as much as his soft words. "Good." With that, she kissed him gently before kissing him deeply the second time.
"Now," he kept Estelle close to him, "can we please leave so I can get out of this costume?"
Estelle looked at him with her eyebrows drawn together, "You don't like it? Why, you look adorable in it." A giggle followed her compliment and earned a pointed stare from Yuri.
"You laughing is exactly the reason." Yuri gestured to himself, "I look ridiculous, like I'm straight from that story you always tell those kids about some prince and Lorelei or whatever."
Estelle's eyes lit up as the pair made their way out, "Oh, you mean The Key of Lorelei! Isn't it just the cutest story?" Yuri chuckled as Estelle became engrossed in recalling the tale, "I just love how the soldier falls in love with noble destined to fade away. You know, he started out even more hopeless than you Yuri, but he changed and that gives me hope that maybe one day you'll grow to express yourself better..." and on she went for their trip through the castle.
From the other side of the hallway, Rita and Fen watched the exchange. Fen smiled at the pair while Rita stood at his side with folded arms and half-lidded eyes. She sighed with a hint of exasperation before stepping out of her heels. Holding them in one hand, she looked to Fen, "You do know I'm going to have to punish you for keeping secrets."
Fen grinned, but didn't look at her, "Will it be the same punishment Yuri got?"
Rita was about to give him a negative response when a wicked smirk made its way onto her face, "Yes Fen, exactly the same." She could practically picture a wolfish tail wagging at her response. Finally, his purple eyes met hers and she leaned towards him. Swiftly, she took his cheek into an iron pinching grip and dragged him down the hallway, "And let this be a lesson to you!"
"Ow, ow, ow, okay I get it just let go!" Fen cried in pain as Rita continued to drag him away by his cheek. Unlike Estelle, Rita's pinches hurt more than getting bitten by a giganto monster.
To the people of the Empire, the Stillborn Rebellion was nothing more than an urban legend. Some doubted it even occurred, and others simply brushed it aside as a footnote in such a glorious period of their country. The festivals continued, people still laughed and sang, and the jewel of the Empire continued to shine in the night like a candle in the dark. Deep below Zaphias, however, the rebellion met an end unseen.
Philip Eaglewood, escorted by the only men that escaped at his side, marched through the catacombs of Zaphias. Fury burned in his eyes as he walked the dark passageways that ran alongside of the aqueducts of the capital. Rats scurried away at his heavy footfalls, and shivered at the constant growl that seemed to always leave his throat. Finally, they reached the steel doors that held the laboratory, "Open it, I know he's in there!" he roared.
His men obediently opened the heavy doors and walked inside ahead of Philip. As they entered the dark lab, they all froze with shock and fright. Philip pushed past them and angrily glanced about for himself. With each pass of the room, his angered expression turned to dread, and his skin paled.
"W-What is this?" He shakily moved to the empty tables and stared in disbelief. "Where are the bodies we had excavated by Ruins Gate?" His mouth slowly closed as he gritted his teeth, "Eleanor, where is Eleanor! She was supposed to be watching this place!" His answer came in the form of a pained groan. Philip quickly ran around the table and stopped at the side of a body huddled against the wall, just out of sight. "Eleanor!" He rushed to her side.
The huddled form moved at the sound of his voice and groaned again. Eleanor slowly turned so her back was completely against the wall, revealing herself to the light. Her pained eyes looked at Philip with a shade of shame, "L-Lord Philip," she rasped, "I'm s-sorry. He took me by surprise, forced me to open the door for him."
"Who?" Philip asked, though he was sure he already knew who. Eleanor tried to answer, but she could not. It was now that Philip noticed the severe wound just under Eleanor's chest. She had been stabbed, and stabbed where she would merely bleed out in agony, "Oh, my dear Eleanor," Philip ran a pitiful hand over her cheek, "and to think I had suspected you betrayed me."
"To hear sorrow in your voice is to hear irony made real for the ears." A voice spoke from behind Philip.
Eleanor's eyes grew wide with horror as Philip slowly turned to face the master of such piercing words. Both of them felt their bodies grow colder when they saw the men that had accompanied Philip dead. Each corpse held one, fatal wound and a pool of blood around them. The only other soul alive, was a man draped in a gray cloak. His pale face seemed to glow in the darkness, and his white hair appeared to shine against the shadows.
"You," Philip's anger overpowered his fear, "you betrayed me!" He took a threatening step forward. A glyph appeared at his feet as rage continued to build within him, "You left me to die up there, and all I had done was for you!" He fired an angry Fireball at his former ally and cursed Brave Vesperia for taking away blastia. If he had more power, he would have sent a storm of spells his way.
Eleanor watched in painful fear as the Fireball was effortlessly slapped away with a flick of the cloaked man's wrist. "W-Why?" was all she could cough out.
He did not respond how Eleanor or Philip had anticipated. Instead of answering her weakly voiced question, he looked upwards, "Do you have dreams?"
Philip paused in confusion before growling impatiently, "What kind of mindless dribble are you about to spout?" He fired another Fireball that left the cloaked man unharmed.
"I have but one dream." He slowly looked to Philip and vanished before quickly reappearing in front of the stunned noble. The gray cloak shielded the object pressed against Philip's chest, but Eleanor knew what it was. She screamed despite herself and watched as blood poured from Philip's impaled body.
Eleanor weakly reached up to embrace Philip when his body started to slump, but that small gesture was denied her. Swiftly, Philip was flung across the room and against one of the empty tables. Eleanor shrieked once more as tears poured from her eyes. "Noooo," she weeped and chanted the denial of what she was seeing, experiencing.
"I will fulfill my dream," he looked down at the weeping eyes of the dying woman, "and I will raise Zaphias to the heavens, to embrace with the star that gave us hope." He turned and silently started to leave the room. He stopped to glance back at Philip's still body, "I must thank you, for showing me this changed world." He looked upwards once more, as if to the skies hidden by tons of brick and earth, "I have much to do before the time will come." Then, just as quietly as he had slain the others, he left.
"L-Lord Philip," Eleanor dragged herself to the motionless body of her charge, "Philip," she called out to him once more. She did not call a third time, but instead moved so she could cradle Philip's head. To her brief relief, Philip's green eyes fixed on her as his body quivered in the cold grip of death.
"Eleanor," Philip choked, "my dear, sweet Eleanor." He tried to reach up to touch her, but could not. He chuckled painfully, more blood bubbling from his lips to slip across his cheek, "I... I had tried to play a king for a pawn," he blinked and chuckled more, "in my hunt for power, I unleashed something even I could not fathom."
"What," Eleanor nuzzled Philip's forehead as life continued to leave her, "have we unleashed upon the world?"
"Zaphias," Philip's body stilled, "we have unbound the king of Zaphias."
Oh wayward son
in regret and fear of what he had done
had sealed away the rightful one
and to hide the shame
the shame of slaying one so great
a legend of lies he did create
A/N: The end... okay not really but this is the end of the introduction. More set up and foreshadowing to tickle the brains of my readers. Also, a bit of advise from me to you: read chapters 13 and the Epilogue of Black Brigade, you will understand much more if you do (I won't spend much on recapping what was said in the last story). Alrighty, well I do hope you enjoyed and thank you for reading. Please review! Until next time...