Pinkshuchan: LALIHO! Hello, it's Pinkshuchan. This is the next chapter. Enjoy!

Chapter 22

Forest of the Flowers

The atmosphere in the section close to the village was as dark and depressing as it was the day before. The people roamed around filled with frowns and left an air that seemed to want to pull more people into depression to satisfy its hunger. Never had Akihiko thought he would see this village; the village that belonged to the people of Erden, the most peaceful people he had ever met, filled with depression. He couldn't blame them though. Not only was their home turned into a dreary wasteland, but their king was taken away from them.

Was this what everyone was like right after the events that happened ten years ago?

He asked Manami this. She explained that indeed at the time, the people were in a similar state after the demons attacked and many people's lives were taken, including the lives of the former king and queen. It wasn't until a few days later did Takahiro snap out of his moment of depression and gave everyone courage to rebuild Erden and live on. With Takahiro gone, the people can't feel any more hope.

Akihiko frowned. It was sad to know a peaceful continent like Erden could fall so easily should their ruler be taken from them. It shows how dependant they are. At the same time, he could sympathize with their mood. If they had a leader their whole life, they would have no choice but be dependant. They loved their king who selflessly protected them. No one loved him as much as his family though, including Misaki.

He made a decision. "I'll go get him back."

Everyone looked over at him in shock. None of them understood what was going on. Akihiko went on in more detail. "I'm heading to Damonen anyways. When I get there, I'll make sure King Takahiro is returned to Erden. I promise."

The people stared in hope. Manami was the one to speak. "You'll get Takahiro back?"

Akihiko nodded. "Besides, I know Haruhiko. He'll let him go if he doesn't want to start a controversy," He looked at Manami. "Do you know where Misaki is? I would like to see him before I leave."

Manami shook her head. "I haven't the slightest idea where he is. Actually, I haven't see him since yesterday. I'm sure he's not far though. Todo must be with him."

Before any more words could be said, Todo ran over to Manami. He gasped for breath the moment he reached her and looked at her; fear easily evident on his face. "Your Majesty," he spoke like a whisper, "Something has happened.

The queen looked over at him with confusion and concern. If Todo ran over here, then…! "Where is Misaki?" she asked in worry, hoping that the next thing he says would not be what she was dreading. Akihiko looked over at Todo the same way, worried about the soldier's next words.

Both of them were not lucky. Todo took another deep breath. "I searched everywhere from his chambers to the place where I last saw him and all around the parts of land near the village. He is nowhere to be found."

It was a good thing it was only the five of them there. If anyone else heard this, there would be complete panic and anarchy. It was tough enough that their king was taken. It would be worse for them to find out their princess was missing too. However even though it was a few that heard the horrible news, the reaction was still the same. The only one who's reaction was neither of worry and concern was Hiroki. It wasn't the fact that Misaki was gone but more so the fact that this was the second time the princess had gone missing.

Akihiko refused to go off anywhere without knowing for sure that Misaki was safe. Much to Hiroki's displeasure and Miyagi not really minding so much, the silver haired man told the queen that he would go look for the princess. Manami wished for the three of them to be safe.

When they left the perimeter of the village grounds, Akihiko summoned Suzuki out. If anyone could easily find Misaki, it would be the little bear demon. After hearing everything, Suzuki focused everything on trying to find Misaki. He finally got a good idea of the princess' presence and began leading the three men to the princess' location.

They found themselves standing at an entrance to an entirely different section of the forests within Erden, with flowers covering the entirety of the ground with the exception of a path as well as flowers on vines surrounding the trees. Even the trees themselves looked almost like flowers. It appeared as if it was some sort of flower forest. Anything involving flowers definitely involved Misaki; Akihiko was sure of it. Without anymore debate, he began to walk in the forest, ignoring the cries of his comrades from going in without thinking things over first. In the end, both Hiroki and Miyagi only sighed with their ally's stubbornness and followed him in.

Nothing but their footsteps and the sound of leaves blown by the wind could be heard as they walked through the forest. Nothing else seemed to be moving around in the forest either. It was if they were the only ones in the whole forest. Not even another living creature.

Akihiko was confused. He looked over at Suzuki. "You're sure that Misaki is here?" Suzuki nodded. Despite the confident nod, the bear himself appeared as if he was not even sure himself. They didn't have a choice but continue forward though as they had no other lead.

They walked even farther through the forest until they found themselves standing before a thick tree with tiny pictures on it and another pathway that moved right. Akihiko and Hiroki were about to continue through the path when Miyagi stopped them. He walked over to the tree to get a closer look at it. Akihiko and Hiroki stared at their older companion.

"I don't understand what is so interesting about these pictures," Hiroki explained, "They look just like any other set of pictures."

"These aren't really pictures," Miyagi replied, "At least not the type of pictures you assume they are. This is actually Erden writing."

The cinnamon haired man crossed his arms and rolled his eyes. "Oh really? If you know that much, I assume you know what it says."

Miyagi looked at it closer. "My translation of this may not be exact, but this is what I can figure out by what I know. 'Nothing but a flower can pass through here.'"

"And you're able to figure that out just by looking at it?" Akihiko asked.

The older man looked over to his younger companions and smiled. "I've spent a lot of time here in Erden before. You learn a lot of things when you've been around like I have," He looked back at the tree. "Judging by this, I assume that this is a warning. Something must be up ahead."

Akihiko couldn't believe what the weapon's master was suggesting. "Are you saying we go back and not bother going in? Misaki is here. Suzuki was able to sense it. I refuse to go back if that means leaving him in danger again."

"No one says you have to abandon him," Miyagi assured him, "We just don't know what's up ahead. What I don't get is why Princess Misaki would be here."

"It doesn't matter why he's here!" Akihiko could not hide the worry on his face. "If this place is really dangerous, then Misaki could be in trouble!" He continued walking through the path. "No matter what it is that may lie ahead, I'm moving forward." Nothing more could be done but to follow Akihiko forward. Nothing was going to change his mind now, even if it turned out the Misaki was not in there.

They found themselves standing in the middle of a giant patch of grass with trees and flowers keeping their distance. In front of them appeared to be what looked like a giant flower bud three times the size of Akihiko with two thick trees surrounded by vines standing on each side of it. Other giant flowers only half the size of the silver haired man stood close to the giant patch of grass surrounding it. There appeared to be no other paths. Did they reach a dead end? If so, where was Misaki?

"He's not here!" Hiroki groaned, "That bear must've got the wrong scent. I say we go back and believe that the princess is back home."

Akihiko couldn't understand what was going on. Suzuki said that he sensed Misaki here even if it wasn't a hundred percent. There had to be something here; something that led to Misaki's location. His observation was clouded by worry and panic though. What if Misaki wasn't here? What if something terrible had happened to him? His breaths quickened, his heart pounded. Dark worrisome thoughts clouded his mind. He began to hyperventilate. Misaki, Misaki, Misaki, Misaki, MISAKI!

He was snapped out of it by a hand resting on his shoulder. He looked over to see Miyagi standing there with a calm look. He gave Akihiko an assuring smile. "I'm sure that the princess is alright. We just need to keep looking."

The silver haired man just stared at his older companion. He wanted to believe his words. He needed to. He needed to hold onto that hope that his precious Misaki was alright. He gave a little nod and was about to join Hiroki with leaving when the most unusual yet terrifying thing happened.

The path they came through was blocked by long thick vines. The air around them felt cold and eerie, causing them to shiver. Miyagi had a feeling of what was going to happen and armed himself with a sword. Akihiko and Hiroki just stood there confused when the silver haired man noticed something and he too pulled out his weapon. The blockage, the air, Suzuki disappeared once again; something was ready to attack. Weird noises were heard around them and Hiroki was the last to arm himself. They didn't know where the sound came from when the cinnamon haired man noticed a little detail that was off.

The flowers that surrounded them were moving closer.

Seeing no point in continuing to act innocent, the flowers revealed themselves as monstrous flora; glowing eyes and sharp fangs on their faces and thick roots serving as legs. They began charging at the team all at once. With all of them armed, the three comrades dealt with the living flowers, slashing and breaking them in half. They were barely able to defeat them when they decided to back off and go back to their original spots. Was this it? Despite winning, the flowers decided to give up? Why would they do that?

They didn't have to wait long to find out though.

The giant flower bud, like the rest of the monstrous flowers, began to come alive. However, unlike the rest of the flora, it only stayed in one spot in between the two trees. The vines holding on to the trees began to move and served as the bud's arms. The bud itself slightly opened, acting like a mouth, and looking no different from a mouth as it had fangs and a snake tongue. The rest of the flowers began to move around as if chanting and worshipping the giant bud.

The battle continued. The bud used the vine like arms to attack the trio. The three were barely able to jump out of the way. After the bud's attack, the trio tried attacking the vines, believing that it would bring the giant flower at a disadvantage. However to their surprise, when the vines were cut, they would grow back almost immediately. If not the vines, then it was possible that its weak spot was its head. Sadly though, all close range attempts resulted with the vines grabbing them and throwing them away without throwing them out of the battlefield and long ranged attempts like Akihiko's lightning bolts, Hiroki's fireballs, or Miyagi's arrows, resulted with the bud taking it in its mouth and aiming it back at them. Even when the bud decided to lean forward and attack with its unusual fangs and the vines couldn't protect the head, the attacks would not work, as if the bud was made steel.

This was a tough battle; even tougher than fighting the Slifer. At least the Slifer had some sort of weakness. The bud didn't seem to have any, or if it did Akihiko and the others didn't have that certain ability to find out what it was. The giant flora was practically invincible and there was no way for them to escape. It appeared that this was the end.

It was too soon to believe that however.

A soft and beautiful yet eerie sound came from beyond the trees. It was some sort of tune, sung not in hums nor in a language the trio could understand. Yet the bud and the rest of the flora appeared calm and at ease, as if falling to sleep. As if in a trance, they went back to their original positions before attacking the three. Only one question could be asked; where did the tune come from?

The source of the song came walking towards them, looking over at the flowers before looking at the trio. "The song will only put them to sleep temporarily. We need to leave before they wake up." No more words were shared until they hurried to escape the forest as fast as they could.

The moment they were finally out, they all stopped to catch their breath. Akihiko looked up and began asking something he had been meaning to ask to the person in question. "Why were you in that forest in the first place, Misaki?"

Misaki looked over at Akihiko with a glare. His hands were placed on his hips as he began to speak. "I should say the same to you! Did no one tell you how dangerous this forest was?"

"Oh really?" It was Hiroki's turn to glare at the princess, "If it's so dangerous, then why is it okay for you to go in there?"

"When you were in the forest, did you come across a tree with pictures on it? Those pictures are an ancient Erden language."

"I figured a rough translation with them," Miyagi explained, "It said; 'Nothing but a flower can pass through here.'"

Misaki nodded. "That is exactly what it says. And like it says, only a 'flower' can pass through there. That's why it's safe for me to go in."

Hiroki huffed. "What the hell! You're not a flower!"

Miyagi nodded. "But don't forget, Hiroki. Princess Misaki is nicknamed Erden's 'flower'. I believe that may be what it meant by only a flower can pass."

Akihiko also began to nod. And they experienced with their own eyes how Misaki can get past the monster flora on his own. It didn't explain though why Misaki went in the forest. Surely he didn't go in there for no reason. He asked his question again, hoping this time to get an answer. The princess only frowned and lowered his eyes, trying to avoid eye contact. He then raised his head again as he realized something.

"Weren't you supposed to be leaving Erden today?" he asked, "Why are you still here?"

"You disappeared," Akihiko replied, "I was worried about you so I went looking for you. But that's beside the point; you're avoiding the question!"

But Misaki wouldn't answer. He only kept telling them that it would be best if they hurried on their way to whatever destination they needed to go. Akihiko wouldn't budge. He could see that Misaki was hiding something involving the forest. The princess pointed something out, causing the three to turn heads. Seeing that there was nothing there, they turned back to see Misaki running away. Now they knew he was truly hiding something. Akihiko ran after him. The silver haired man, having longer legs, managed to catch up and grabbed the princess' wrists. The chocolate haired boy tried to get out, screaming at the elder to let him go. Akihiko still wouldn't budge.

And through his cries, the truth came out.

"Let me go! I have to save my brother!"

Akihiko looked down at the young princess; the latter trembling. A question slipped out his lips. "By saving your brother, you mean you plan to head to Damonen," Misaki nodded. "You don't need to worry about that. I will be heading to Damonen myself to take care of the matter."

But the princess only glared at him. "You shouldn't be troubled about this anymore! This is something only I can do. It was my fault he got in this predicament in the first place. If I was more careful so I wouldn't fall into Sumi's trap…"

"That wasn't your fault," Akihiko assured him as he moved his hands from the younger's wrists to his shoulders, massaging them, "No one could've predicted what was going to happen. It just happened."

"That doesn't mean I shouldn't go to save my brother myself!" Misaki lowered his head. "After the death of my parents, Big Brother had so many responsibilities pushed onto him. He did everything for Erden as well as raise me on his own. Manami helped as soon as he married her, but that didn't change anything. He put the people of Erden's wellbeing before his own. He put my wellbeing before his own. What did I ever do to repay him for everything? I couldn't do anything. At least now I can do something to help him; to show that I can help him with anything he needs. And I want to help him because I just don't want to lose anyone I love ever again!" Tears began to form in emerald eyes. "I already lost my parents. I don't want to lose my brother too. I don't want…"

Sobs took over words. Akihiko could only stare down at the princess as he cried over his determination to get his brother back. Never had the silver haired man seen such love between two brothers; something he himself did not share with his own brother. It was something genuine, heart warming even. Akihiko himself felt a fluttery feeling in his chest just witnessing how much these brothers love each other and would do anything to protect one another.

He sighed. "Misaki, I can't let you go off to save him on your own… … so I will have to accompany you and protect you."

Everyone looked at Akihiko with shock and disbelief. Misaki protested against it. He refused to let Akihiko assist him when he had already done so much for Erden. The silver haired man assured him that he was willing. He even explained that he had already agreed to it. Misaki attempted to try to keep his protests strong but with every word Akihiko said, the protests grew weaker and weaker. Hiroki too tried to make protests; reasons different from the princess'. However like Misaki, his protests failed to reach the silver haired man.

In the end, it was agreed that Misaki would join them.

"But wait!" Miyagi spoke out, "That doesn't explain why the princess was here in this forest."

That was true. It still didn't explain why Misaki came to the Forest of Flowers. Misaki appeared nervous to explain his reasoning, but knowing he had no choice he took a deep breath and began to explain.

"There was something my mother taught me when I was younger, before she… you know what. She taught me that if anything were to happen to Erden and there was something that required me to leave, whether temporarily or permanently, to go deep in the Forest of Flowers and take with me a precious heirloom passed down from princess to princess all through generations, to remind me of my home here."

"And what would that be?" Akihiko asked. Misaki took a deep breath before pulling out the very thing that caused all this trouble for them. Akihiko was mesmerized. Miyagi was in awe. Hiroki on the other hand was deeply disappointment.

"A flower?" he cried out, "You mean to tell me that you went through that dangerous forest and had us follow you ALL FOR A FUCKING FLOWER!?"

Indeed, in Misaki's hand was a flower with glowing pink petals. It was an unusual looking flower sure, but it was still a flower. Akihiko thought that it was nice looking, something fitting the princess. It didn't occur to him with how silly it would sound to go through danger just for a flower. But Miyagi appeared to have another opinion on the flower.

He looked at the princess with curiosity. "This flower… You said it has been passed down through generations, right?" Misaki nodded. "Flowers never tend to last this long. The longest any flower would last would be until winter."

Akihiko stared at the flower in realization. A flower that was able to last this long? Could it be…? It had to be.

This was the flower that never dies.

Even more reason for Misaki to accompany them. Not that there was anything the princess had as a reason to not accompany them. At this point, Misaki had already given up and agreed to accompany them. They returned to Erden, assuring the people that Misaki was alright. No later would they go on their way and leave Erden, heading to the next continent bringing them one step closer to Damonen.

Meanwhile at Damonen, Haruhiko heard everything that had happened in Erden. He cursed for the events; how Kaoruko didn't battle Akihiko to the death let alone defeat him as well as the net meant for the hybrid demon also capturing the king of Erden. He used his fingers to rub his temples from the pain of the stress. This was convenient with the fact that he had wanted to talk with the king of Erden for a while and this was the perfect opportunity; it was just the fact that it was resulted to this.

The other thing was that it meant he had to go next in line of Damonen Knights to go after Akihiko. He knew full well what that meant and groaned in annoyance as he knew what was going to happen. Taking a sigh, knowing he had no choice, he gets up from his throne and heads to the quarters of the next Damonen Knight, or more so 'Damonen Knights.'

He found himself at the door. He was ready to knock on the door when he heard sounds coming from behind. He listened closely to the sounds, realizing that they were moans. Realizing what those moans meant, he knew he couldn't afford to wait until they were done. He stormed through the door to see the very thing he knew was going on.

Two nude men were there on the bed, one man riding the other man with his arms and legs around the latter's torso. Their faces showed only that of pleasure. But when the first man noticed Haruhiko, he jumped in shock.

"What the hell, Haruhiko!" the man yelled, "Can't we have any privacy?"

The emperor only crossed his arms and glared at the two men. "Naturally I would give you whatever privacy you need. However considering that this is urgent, I require your abilities now. And refrain from calling me by my name! I am your emperor!"

The first man only got off his partner and the bed to toss clothes to the other before putting some on himself. "Yeah, yeah, you're the emperor!" he mocked as he clothed himself, "I get it. Let me guess; both Shinoda and Kaoruko were unable to stop Akihiko?"

"For someone that spends his time doing nothing but eat, sleep, and have intercourse with your partner, you get your info right," Haruhiko replied before stepping out, "I trust you both will be able to stop him. After all, you are Damonen Knights #2 and #3, the Day and Night Duo."

Pinkshuchan: And finally it's done. Sorry you had to wait. We finally move on from Erden and move to the next continent. What will it be? Who will the next ally be? Read and Review everyone!