"This… can't be right…" Neinheart asked himself, reviewing his usual reports. "The Black Mage's forces are weakening around El Nath… It's still present, but not as strong as before…" He rubbed his chin. "What is he planning…?"
He met up with Cygnus and gave small discussion before a conclusion was met.
"This could be a pivotal point for us to make a comeback. We need to ensure that he does not regain any control of El Nath any more…" Cygnus stated with a determined look on her face.
Neinheart shook his head, "Alright, I will send forces down to ensure it is kept safe. " Neinheart said to himself, "but I still think it feels far too easy…"
"It may be…" Cygnus said, "But we mustn't let a chance like this slip from us!"
Neinheart followed through with the plan. It stayed quiet for a good while, even after sending the knights. But he was not ready to let his guard down yet…
A few weeks passed by… then a few months… the time flew by and there was still no sign of trouble around El Nath… It had actually gotten a little better! Then Neinheart began to see small, subtle changes throughout most of the land. The monsters on Victoria were acting a lot more peaceful than usual, The dragons were staying outside of Minar, and he had even heard story of the Black Wings being too busy to keep up with their nightly curfew limit on everyone…
Things were really starting to tip in their favor.
"There has got to be a catch… he's planning something…" Neinheart spoke with Cygnus. " But I cannot figure out what!"
Cygnus thought to herself. The sudden decrease in activity and power hinted at something, but it was still an advantage. "We… We still cannot risk him taking this back…"
"But what if that's what he wants us to do?" Neinheart sighed, "What if he wants us to separate our powers?"
Cygnus took a deep breath and nodded. "Yes… absolutely." She stood up, "Neinheart, please summon a meeting of the alliance. All of the forces you can."
"A meeting?" Neinheart asked.
Cygnus closed her eyes, "Right now, even if it is a trap, we still have the land ourselves. We need to make sure he regrets giving us this edge if it is intentional…"
With a quick nod, Neinheart took off to his office and sent out the message to all the important powers.
A few days later, they all began to gather to discuss the best way to keep their territory as peaceful as possible. The instructors from Victoria, well admired from around the world, walked in first. They all gave a deep bow to Cygnus out of respect, which she bowed in return. "I am honored you could make it."
"Of course we would arrive." Athena confirmed. "Anything for the peace of our world."
A few of their students tagged along behind them. Unlike their teachers, whom were well civilized , they seemed to take favor to bickering and arguing amongst each other. Neinheart rolled his eyes and waved his hand, "The meeting will be held in the courtyard. Please make your way there in a PEACEFUL manner." He sighed out.
Next would be the resistance. Neinheart always felt a huge pit in his stomach with them. He knew one bad showing with them would cause Cygnus their trust again, and that was something he couldn't afford. "Greetings." He started, " I hear all is well for you these days?"
"If you can say that…" Claudine sighed, "We are enjoying the slight rest, but we cannot let our guard down."
"I absolutely agree. Which is why this meeting was called to order…" Neinheart nodded. He pointed her over to the court yard. "The meeting will be over there."
The resistance made their way over. That just left "them". Neinheart felt the pit in his stomach grow even larger. It wasn't that he "hated" the heroes… It was just his childhoodself finding someone to blame for his own past actions. He gave up on believing in them, left his own sister behind, tossed everything he had for the sake of serving the empress, only for them to slowly appear before him, one by one…
Well, he couldn't exactly blame Evan, considering the child himself was new and uncertain of his standing as a hero. Neinheart almost felt bad for the child. Maybe that was just him being a big brother again. Who knew? Either way, the meeting would be soon, and he wondered which would show up…
A small, gentle breeze of wind flew throughout Ereve, almost leaving a small melody in its wake. The leaves scattered around and Mercedes appeared. "Sorry I'm late." She spoke gently, "The children were rather worked up, so I had to calm them down."
"No bother." Neinheart spoke, "The meeting has yet to begin. It will take place in the usual location."
Mercedes nodded and made her way over.
The next would be Aran. Luckily alone this time. Neinheart wasn't quite too sure how to have idle chat with them, considering his past behavior and suddenly obvious connection… or so he thought. Aran seemed suspicious, but not fully aware…
"Let's keep it that way." Neinheart thought to himself.
Evan flew up on Mir and paniced. "I-I'm not late, am I?! I really didn't mean to be late, but I got lost and-!"
"Don't worry." Neinheart calmly interrupted, "You're fine. The meeting is over in the court." He explained carefully, "Remember where that is?"
Evan's eyes tightened for a moment and then opened up. "I think so!"
"Good, then you should make your way over there." Neinheart sighed.
His eyes slammed open when Evan started to go the wrong way. "Mister Evan…." He muttered. Evan stopped and turned around with a panicked look on his face. Neinheart raised his hand and pointed the other way. "It's this way. That's towards the living dorms."
"Oh!" Evan turned bright red. He scuffled past Neinheart, with Mir flying overhead.
"I swear, that child…" Neinheart muttered as he watched him leave. He saw Evan make a slight stop and look around. "To your left!" Neinheart yelled out. "Fly on your dragon and you'll see it!"
Neinheart painfully watched Evan make some direction towards the court. He could only hope he would actually be there.
That was three… That just left two more. He knew Phantom would show up late as usual… The man always did that. And then he left as soon as he got bored. Neinheart could not think of one moment where Phantom stayed til the end after showing up late. As much as it bothered him, he couldn't say much to him. Even if he tried, Phantom would simply go to Cygnus and undo whatever action Neinheart could take. The man was clearly spoiled in all ways possible…
The last one was Luminous. Luminous was rather odd. Neinheart had only seen him once, and he didn't get to speak with him for long. Most of the meetings, he typically skipped for some reason or another. Mercedes had told Neinheart it was because Phantom and he were on some rough terms, but Neinheart was going to take a shot at this. He wrote Luminous's invite personally.
A small amount of time passed. Neinheart was able to confirm Evan made it to the court safely. He sighed. Luminous was really not going to show up again, was he?
Just when he was ready to give up on Luminous again, he heard an unfamiliar voice.
"Is the meeting in this direction?"
He turned around and saw Luminous standing before him. "Ah… yes… You received my invitation, I assume?"
"I did…" Luminous spoke as he walked by, "But I fear I cannot stay for long. Danger could linger about."
Neinheart was rather confused by that remark. Danger? What danger? He carefully watched Luminous walk to the court and decided it would be smart to keep an eye on him. "If he needs to leave, then so be it…" Neinheart sighed out. The heroes were rather unorganized…
Luminous walked carefully towards the court. It was odd being on Ereve. It was like the darkness inside of him knew exactly where he was at, and was trying to claw its way out. Luminous knew better though. He could easily hold it at bay for a while, but he was not going to test it with a figure such as Cygnus around. The first time he went to Ereve he felt a violent impulse that he had not felt in months. Although it was sudden, he somehow kept control and simply tried to avoid Ereve and the empress all together. But alas, it seemed to be of little use now.
The meeting was called to order. Luminous gave a glance around the area as Neinheart gave the opening speech to review the material that would be discussed.
"He'll be here later." Mercedes chuckled. "Neinheart knows to drag this out until Phantom shows up."
Luminous rolled his eyes slightly.
Of course, Phantom did eventually show up and made a rather flashy show about it. Luminous scourned at his appearance.
"Oh Luminous! What a surprise to see you here!" He remarked, "Finally done living like a squirrel?"
"It's a house, Phantom." Luminous remarked sharply.
"Oh yes, of course, we can always assume that…" Phantom chuckled.
Neinheart rolled his eyes at the two. It hadn't even been a full minute before the two were biting at each other. "Now on with the meeting…"
Cygnus stood up and gave a detailed explanation of the situation and the plan. Everyone listened carefully in on her plan, seeing if it would be fully applicable and if it would be safe for everyone.
As the meeting went on, Evan started to fall asleep and Phantom started to clearly get bored. "This is such a missed opportunity! Why did no one bring a pen?" Phantom asked Mercedes.
Mercedes just shrugged, trying to be as quiet as possible.
On the other hand, Luminous was starting to feel drained himself. It was going to take more effort to keep his darkness at bay. "Maybe it would be a good idea to leave and come back later." He thought to himself. He could always get the plan from Neinheart later… He had given him fair warning after all…
Luminous slowly stood up and the others watched him. "Ah? Luminous?" Mercedes asked as Luminous walked away.
"Hey now, I'm the one that leaves early!" Phantom huffed out.
Neinheart saw Luminous and the other heroes from the corner of his eye and simply let them mind their own business.
That is… until a violent wind swept through Ereve. There were brief shouts of surprise. They all looked around carefully, wondering where it came from.
Mercedes jumped up. She knew that wind all too well. "He's near…" She said to herself.
And it couldn't have been at a worse time for Luminous. The empress and Shinsoo were already making his darkness riled up, but with this sudden addition of dark powers added in the area, he felt overwhelmed. He slumped on the ground, grabbing a nearby chair for support.
"Luminous?" Mercedes and Phantom jumped over and tried to ease him over, realizing something was actually wrong. She closed in on Luminous's ear. "Luminous, does this… have to do with that?" She said, looking at his red eye.
Luminous simply looked at her. He couldn't muster enough courage to say that the darkness was starting to get violent and worked up. He was supposed to be a master of it!
"Wha-?" Evan woke up out of shock.
"Something's going on…" Aran spoke, holding their weapon tightly.
Evan let out a small sob, "I hate it when things happen…"
Cygnus stood alert. Her knights stood even closer. Everyone else in the court was ready to strike at anything out of the ordinary.
A laugh was heard from above.
They all looked up and saw him. The terror they all feared.
"What's he doing here?!" Claudine yelled.
"How did he break through the barrier?!" Neinheart asked himself, trying to think of an answer. Then an all too familiar face appeared behind beside the Black Mage.
"Heyo, Monocle boy." Eleanor waved her hand. "it's been a good while, has it not?"
"I should have figured YOU'D be involved with any barrier breaching tactics…" Neinheart retorted back.
"Cool it." Eleanor spoke. "We're not here for fun and games."
Cygnus blinked. She didn't budge a bit. What were they after? They weren't the sort to play games to start with, but this time seemed like business. Enough for the Black Mage to show up himself.
He waved his hands up and sent the people of the court across the room. The counter attack started instantly, with attacks from all directions flying around. Phantom and Mercedes looked at Luminous, whom seemed to have regained his composure a bit. "Are you going to be okay…?" Mercedes asked.
"I should be alright…" Luminous said blankly. "I guess I can vent some of this off." Luminous thought to himself. He could feel his inner rage brewing at the mere sight of the Black Mage.
Mercedes waved her hand at Phantom, "You've got good eyes. Keep an eye on him. I'll cover Evan and Aran." She muttered quietly.
Phantom sighed, "Always tagged with Luminous, eh?" He chuckled before standing up, "Alright, let's start a good show, shall we?" he twirled his cane and grasped it firmly, letting the wind flare his cape up in a rather fashionable manner.
The heroes jumped in the fight quickly, and it was easily noticed. They were able to easily dodge the Black Mage's attacks, and counter them.
"Incredible…!" Claudine said to herself as she watched them. The battle seemed to be easily going in their favor when sudden string appeared and held Cygnus and her main knights captive. "Ah?!"
Everyone stopped and turned their eyes to Cygnus. Francis appeared behind them and chuckled a bit. "Sorry Cygnus, but rules are rules!"
"Unhand her!" Phantom yelled as he rushed to the puppeteer.
"No! Especially not if you want it! Do you know how much trouble you put me in?!" Francis yelled while teleporting to a safe distance.
"Like I care…" Phantom huffed.
There was a deep laugh from the Black Mage as he clenched his hand into a tight fist. Chains spurred from the ground and wrapped around Luminous.
"Eh?!" Mercedes looked at Luminous. "Luminous!"
Luminous squirmed around, "…Tch… They are too restricting. I can't move!" He yelled back.
Phantom cursed himself for leaving Luminous open like that. Francis let out a chuckle, released Cygnus from his grasp and vanished into thin air. "What?" Phantom's eyes opened up even more. Was the plan to leave Luminous out in the open?!
His mind raced back to Luminous's behavior right before this event… Did that have something to do with this? "Luminous hang on!" Phantom's eye glowed as he memorized a useful sword technique. He turned his cane into a heavy sword and ran quickly towards Luminous, building up momentum for a heavy blow, only to be deflected by Eleanor's magic.
"Tsk tsk… You left him up and dry, sweetie, so we picked him up. You can't come running back, that's not how things work."
Aran ran up to Eleanor and sent out a strong yet chilling attack her way. Eleanor jumped to dodge the ice, letting it freeze the chains instead. "Hold still!" Aran yelled out.
"You must be really dumb if you think I'm going to listen to that." Eleanor rolled her eyes.
The Black mage approached Luminous slowly, making Eleanor's barrier strong enough to prevent any entry around Luminous.
"What do you want?" Luminous growled. His eyes were wide and held slight fear, but the anger inside of him was clearly present.
"Ah, you act far too hasty…" The Black Mage chuckled. "But I suppose we should talk where it is a bit quieter?"
There was a large flash of black magic in the court and suddenly… they were gone. The Black Mage, Eleanor, and Luminous… all gone.
"Luminous?!" Mercedes yelled out.
Phantom's eyes widened in horror. He had gotten so worked up about protecting Cygnus, whom was clearly safe from her knights, that he left Luminous in danger… And he was the target all along! "I don't understand…" Phantom said, "Why would he target Luminous like this?"
Mercedes dashed over to Phantom to ensure his well being and sighed, "Do you think it had to do with 'that'?"
Phantom shook his head, "I don't see why it would! That's silly!"
Evan blinked from a distance… What was this 'that'?
Far away though, Luminous found himself in a dark location. The chains were gone, but he was stuck in a room with no chance of escape. He kicked the door once again, hoping to break it down… No luck.
He sighed and looked around. There had to be a way out…
While looking at the walls, he heard the door open. He turned around quickly and shrieked back like a scared cat. The Black Mage was right in front of him, and he had nothing. "What do you want?!" He yelled.
The Black Mage laughed a bit, "You act with such haste."
"Sorry, I am not one for idle chat." Luminous retorted.
The mage approached the Luminous slowly and looked at him carefully. "You have taken to my powers quite nicely…"
Luminous growled a bit. Was that what this was about? "Heh, if you thought a curse like that could stop me, you are mistaken. I have taken your powers and used them for the benefit of others."
The Black Mage looked at Luminous. "For others? Let me guess… from the kindness of your heart?" His face turned sour. "Honestly, I would expect you to learn to discard that useless thing at some point."
"My heart is far from useless." Luminous clenched his hands. "It has given me the power to overcome your curse and I have no doubts it will help me overcome you."
"Can you honestly say that?" He laughed, "My magic is one thing, but do not forget… your heart was once my own…"
Luminous's eyes widened a bit and he stepped back a small bit. He was aware… Not that it should be surprising, but he was hoping that it could remain a secret a bit longer.
"Ah, you seem surprised?" He smirked, "I could tell my 'light' was still around, even after I killed that on wench."
"Don't you DARE speak ill of Lucia!" Luminous snapped. He could practically feel his blood starting to boil.
"I wasn't too surprised. She seemed like too easy of a target…" He muttered, "However, I never expected it to be…" his eyes moved up and down, "…You."
Luminous regained his composure and gave a small smirk. "Well I didn't exactly see it coming myself, so it was a surprise for both of us."
The mage waved his hand around, "Enough talk though… I have an offer…" He walked up face to face with Luminous, if not a bit taller… "I want you to join me as one of my generals."
"And if I refuse?" Luminous scorned. No way would he ever agree to THAT.
The Black Mage smiled, "Oh, I don't think you'll be able to resist." He lifted his hand up and swirls of black magic through his fingers. "I know you and your 'heart' all too well… You have a strong sense of what is right and wrong, but the darkness inside of you has a strong lust for power." He placed his hand on Luminous's head quickly, yet softly, letting the magic from his fingers pour on to Luminous. "And as a part of me, my limits are your own! Do you not FEEL the power you are capable of wielding?"
Luminous couldn't hear the question. The instant the magic entered his system, he felt something odd. It wasn't painful in any way, but it really dulled his senses. He felt like he was in a trance, staring at nothing, hearing nothing, simply feeling the magic in his body. And did it feel powerful. He had never felt anything close to it before!
The Black mage gently lifted his hand off of Luminous's head. "Well, feel any better?"
Luminous remained standing in a trace for a moment. The effect washed off quickly and he looked at the Black Mage. He wanted to tell him no. He wanted to reject it fully… but something in him had stirred. It was up and running around inside of him, seeking the power it just felt. He stood for a moment, trying to fight that urge away… but it refused. It grew louder and louder by every second.
"Don't worry. Lock your heart out." The Black mage spoke calmly. "Think with your mind… your instinct. If you remove the black and white concept of good and evil, what is it that you desire?"
Luminous tried to think. He wanted to say peace. He wanted nothing more than a simple, peaceful life. Without the need to fight. But then there was that half. The half that he had accepted and made a part of him. The evil, ugly half that wanted power. "I… I… Don't…." He couldn't choose. The two halves in him were fighting again. His head suddenly hurt again. It hurt just like that day…
"You think too much." The Black Mage laid a hand on his shoulder, "I know what you want, and I can give it all to you."
Luminous slapped his hand off his shoulder and fell back against the wall, clinging to his head. What was he supposed to do? The Black Mage stirred his darkness up on purpose. He didn't have anyone to turn to for help. He was alone in a room with the Black Mage with no defense…
"If you had enough power, this would never happen!" A voice rang in his head.
"No, you don't want this!" Another spoke clearly.
Luminous held his head tightly. He didn't like this. Last time this headache came around, darkness won out. He couldn't afford for darkness to win. Not right now.
The Black Mage let out a small satisfied smile before lowering down to Luminous's level and placing his hand on his head again, letting a small amount of power alleviate his headache.
Luminous's eyes opened and looked at the Black Mage. "Honestly…" The Mage looked at him. Luminous noticed for the first time how… human the Black Mage suddenly looked… "If you were once part of me and I truly desire power, what do you think your heart desires?"
Luminous felt himself slip into a light trace again. He was at least able to acknowledge what was being said to him this time.
The Black Mage slipped his hand to the side of Luminous's face. "We are strong on our own, but together, we are the very thing that fate fears. Worry not about your heart or 'good and bad'… worry about deciding your own fate!"
The Black Mage watched as both of Luminous's eyes sunk into a deep red color. Black magic wrapped his body slowly, changing his white robed into a dark black.
The Black Mage set Luminous back against the wall where the magic continued to flow over him. "I will be back soon…" He said, "I hope you do not disappoint me." He stated as he walked out of the small room, ensuring the door was shut on his way out.